Most are just too fearful to go for what we deeply want: passion, adventure, the creative or crazy life. We say no to opportunities out of fear.
I’VE just done a scriptwriting seminar with visiting Hollywood writer Michael Hauge on how to construct character and plot. The interesting thing is that when it comes to looking at the main character’s motivation, it could have been a lecture on psychology.
A story is like ordinary life. You take a character and you give them something they desire. An external goal: getting the girl; getting away from the small town; getting the loot; leaving the bad marriage or job. And always an outer obstacle — the other man; the bank security guards; the boss. But the most interesting thing is what Hauge said about internal goals.
The character may not know it but, like us, they have an internal goal that is often different to the external one. For instance, on the surface a character seems to want the safety of a good marriage or a regular job at the firm. But in fact they are just too fearful to go for what they deeply want: passion, adventure, the creative or crazy life. They say no to opportunities out of fear.
The end of any good drama is that the internal goal becomes realised. This is typified in Titanic when Rose leaves the security of her conservative partner and runs off with the passionate character played by Leonardo DiCaprio, or in Michael Clayton when George Clooney’s character, internally yearning for a deeper connection with humanity, finally chooses right over financial gain.
Hauge follows a classic psychology line, which is that we all have a childhood wound. We then compensate for that wound by covering it up — growing an ‘‘identity’’ or the false self. The identity is who we become rather than who we would have been if we didn’t have the rumblings of: you’re not good enough; you’re stupid; you’re not lovable; it’s your fault — which make us protect ourselves.
In Rain Man, the Tom Cruise character who’d been estranged from his father since childhood becomes cold and ruthless as a coping mechanism. What he started off going after was the goal of money, as many successful people with similar wounds do. But what he really yearned internally for was love, which he finds by the end of the film through his brother, played by Dustin Hoffman.
What Hauge teaches is that when we don’t take the risk and do what we really yearn to do deep down, we are betraying our passion and our very essence. And we’ll be stuck forever in the compromise of our identity. Ultimately each of us can remain safe or break free: go on a hero’s journey — take a leap of faith and bring back the grail; kill the metaphorical dragon, overcome fear and stuttering, and start speaking our truth.
But, as in any good drama, the first step is making the choice.
Hi Michael have emailed you. I got so much out of your course, not just as a budding script writer but as a aspiring human being 🙂 I recommend you highly.
Thanks for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed the seminar!
Here’s a trick I didn’t include in the lecture: the thing that makes our identities so effective at keeping us safe but unfulfilled is that our identities are who we think we really are. So to figure out the inner conflict for a character in a movie (the tug of war between living a safe existence in one’s identity or a fulfilled but vulnerable existence in one’s essence), ask how the person would fill in the blank in this sentence:
“I’ll do whatever it takes to have what I want, just don’t ask me to __________________ , because that’s JUST NOT ME.” Whatever goes in the blank is the thing that is outside the character’s comfort zone, outside her identity.
And, as you said, this applies to real life as well. When we find the courage to fill in that blank – to acknowledge the fear that is keeping us from our dreams – we’ve taken the first step towards living in our essence.
Ruth, One more little observation. We are nearly at Easter and this saddens me. Why do all the English speaking countries such as Great Britain, Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia turn their countries into a living morgue at Easter, by closing all the shops and everything else. Such a dismal period.
A few years ago I spent Easter In Venice – Italy and this was my best Easter ever. Despite being a Roman Catholic country over the Easter period of Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday all the shops were open until 4 am every day, so were all the restaurants, and they were packed with customers. All the bars were open until 4 am on every day. There was dancing in the streets all day and night, fireworks lit the sky every night.
The streets were packed with huge crowds all wanting to take part in the festivities.
Italians told me that more people go to to Venice at Easter than any other place in the world.
The ultimate for me was going to the opera being staged in ancient ruins on every night, as I love opera more than any other form of music and activity. To me Opera is my god.
I love the spectacle, music, settings and always try for a front row seat.
Yes, I will never forget that Easter in Venice, the best one in my life, in contrast I detest Easter in Australia, so much woe and misery. My life doesn’t depend on Jesus tied to a cross. I prefer dancing in the streets.
Ruth, its called motivation and I have always been motivated, so much so, that I am motivated every minute of my waking life. also some of my sleeping time.
Whatever I attempt to do or carry out,there will also be another dozen adventurous thoughts taking shape in my mind. This is because my mind says to me. ” Have other backup plans ready always.”
For instance I have today been thinking about living on a canal boat in England. Living in Chiang Mai in Thailand. Living in a flat in Cairns. Cycling around France. Currently I am in North Queensland travelling about by a camper trailer.
I love the uncertainty of my crazy thoughts because I don’t like repetitive style living.
I meet folks travelling in huge caravans that contain dishwashers, satellite TV, late model cooking stoves, microwaves, their own showers and toilets, supplies of hot and cold water, enormous fridges,laptops, air conditioning and washing machines. They tell me that they find their life adventurous, but is it ?
One thing I do know is that you cannot motivate other people, you either have the motivation, or you do not. This cannot be learned as its within your inner self.
Think about all the people you know who live in one house all their lives, or live in one village for the whole of their life ? They are not motivated and will never become so.
I know a woman in Australia who has a brother in England who is in his eighties, and has lived in his mothers house all his life. This man has never left the village he was born in, and has no desire to do so.
I cannot explain this, but you Ruth with your qualifications could comment on this ?