The Executive Decision
Here is a post listing the parts of the Theme-Character Integration Series:
I've often pointed out that the most popular fiction is based on some element "ripped from the headlines."
The part you "rip" from the headlines is the THEME. You can't copyright theme, and nobody can sue you for your theme (at least not in the USA at the moment.)
They can sue you for much other content, but not theme. Theme is what you are saying, the statement about life, the universe, and everything that you are making. Theme is where you define what a human being is (and is not) and what it takes to be an admirable example of a human.
Theme is where you address issues such as the reality of Souls, Soul Mates, and Romance, the attainability of the Happily Ever After, the chances for real success in the real world by doing whatever your characters do.
Character is where you address esoteric variables such as the criteria by which we make decisions, and how our decisions impact the events that surround us.
Character is where you address such things as what it takes to "deserve" success, romance, love, life and maybe luck.
Character is where you depict the never-mentioned, never-explained worldbuilding you have done.
In depicting Character, you are showing-not-telling the Spiritual Laws of your fictional universe as well as the Physical Laws.
The Character-Arc is created by the impact of external Events (plot) upon the Character to create Story.
In real life, character impacts events and then events impact character until, by your teens, you are thoroughly embedded in "a life" that is very hard to break out of.
You have become "someone" -- you have an Identity, and that Identity is conveyed to others by what you're majoring in, what after-school-jobs you may have, what you read, watch, or what Games you play.
People find it hard to tease apart their Identity into "plot" and "story" -- and often attribute to outside influences that which is innate. "I got fired because this Boss guy was a crook and a liar." "I didn't get hired because I'm not a blond Caucasian."
Whatever happens in life, it's not related to what you, yourself have done.
See my series of books on Tarot Just For Writers titled The Not So Minor Arcana. Esoterically, what you feel emotionally and what you think inside your own mind or how you choose to phrase your opinions, to whom you speak and about what, is a causative force you emit into the world. It splashes back on you with multiplied force, in the form of Events that seem to "happen to you" rather than be caused by you.
The Artist's job is to reveal the form and function of that connection between intangible, private emotion and external events that just seem to come at you. The Artist writing fiction depicts the reason why Characters do or do not "deserve" what happens to them.
There are objective rules built into the structure of Reality that determine what deeds cause what Events in real life.
The problem is humans are not objective creatures. So we all have different perceptions, and thus different ideas of what the connection is between how we feel and what happens to us.
What is "my fault" -- and what is "not my fault." For what am I to blame? Or for what do I get "credit?"
There are endless variations on answers to those questions, so I'm presenting here one of the touchstones of modern life, an attitude shared by a majority of your readers.
It is the place of emotion in our society, and the appropriateness of where, when and how to express that emotion, how to label it, how to name it, and how to convey your character by that utterance.
Such utterances are called dialogue or worded thoughts, and they are a powerful writing tool for showing-not-telling the nature of a Character.
Here is an example from "real" life (OK, politics and email newsletters are not "real life" but they are headlines you can rip.) Ponder the text of this email newsletter, the subject matter which is Planned Parenthood and its funding sources, and how a single spurious (unnecessary) word depicts a real-life-celebrity-figure.
BTW, this newsletter in no way distinguishes Ben Carson from any other Presidential Candidate. They all let their hirelings phrase things this way because they assume all the general public accept emotion as the proper basis for decision making and action.
Think about this and do some meticulous worldbuilding to illustrate your opinion on where Emotion fits into the Decision Making process, and how actions taken out of an emotional motivation propagate into the world around the Character.
It's a diagram of the connecting links that make Romance and the HEA ending plausible -- or not. Create several such diagrams, from this plot-kernel found in a headline.
I subscribe to a LOT of political and otherwise Newsletters from Far Left to Far Right - lots of "dubious" sources and trustworthy ones, just to see the contrast in how an Event is presented. I got a mailing back in July that explained illustrated a stark point about characterization.
It was from Presidential Candidate Ben Carson. It said:
When I saw the video last week of a top Planned Parenthood official discussing the sale of aborted baby parts, I was so enraged that I started a petition calling on Congress to cut off all of their taxpayer funding.
In just one week, it's now been signed by over 200,000 people across America.
Now there's a second video. This time, it's of a Planned Parenthood official joking around about her need to make enough money from the sale of aborted baby parts to buy a Lamborghini.
Think about how that portrays his Character. Do you see what I see?
The mailing starts:
When I saw the video last week of a top Planned Parenthood official discussing the sale of aborted baby parts, I was so enraged that I started ....
ENRAGED? Really? Should a President decide to do (or not do) something in the midst of rage?
What if an executive is so immature that he only acts if someone else fires up his EMOTIONS?
That's not, how I'd portray a character I wanted readers to believe was capable of handling a management position.
This was probably written by a young flunky who has no clue what "executive" means, never mind what a President is hired to do, but Carson chose and hired this flunky, maybe even approved the message. If you were writing his Character as a winner in a Presidential race, would you portray him this way?
Would you let readers know that he apparently has no clue that rage is inappropriate in a chief executive making life-or-death-decisions. Or what if he discovered what the flunky had wriitten and handled the flunky -- write that scene. Remember dialogue is mortal combat and the actual subject is rarely reflected in the vocabulary.
Then consider our real world.
Could our fiction be whittling away our good sense by glorifying characters who act out of emotion, not good sense?
It's hard to believe a Hero Character could have approved this message.
The real-world Ben Carson is a surgeon, and a good one. Surely he wouldn't do surgery because something enraged him? Would your fictional Character take action in a moment of rage? If so, what would that Character "deserve" as as back-blow from that rage?
Newsletters do not allow you to write back and ask, "enraged" ??? Really??
But suppose you had a Character who did have direct access to write back. What would that email or text say? (Think deleted Hillary Clinton emails, maybe Lois Lerner emails.)
So create a CHARACTER who is applying for an executive position and is turned down because a) a third party portrays him/her as acting out of emotion or b) he/she actually acts out of emotion or c) having acted out of emotion, can/can't handle the blow-back.
What did that Character think, feel, or do previously, perhaps in his/her teens, to "deserve" either getting or not-getting that executive position?
Answer that question and you have defined a theme that is ripped from the headlines.
Here's another article on Ben Carson describing a stump speech he's doing that pivots on emotion. Study the reasoning inside this speech.