Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Theme-Character Integration Part 6 - The Hero vs The Bully by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Character Integration
Part 6
The Hero vs The Bully
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

 Previous parts in this sequence on Theme-Character Integration:

Integrating THEME and CHARACTER -- making them a seamless center-pole of your story-plot integration structure is pretty easy, but you do need to focus on the energy-sources that drive people.

Note, in the political arena, how it happens when one person states their position, another will leap up and hammer them with counter-statements.  Don't listen to the vitriol itself, but rather focus on the energy driving the interaction.

That raw energy-pattern is what drives stories, what causes characters to act in ways that make trouble, whereupon the trouble made causes another character to act. 

All actions in this world are kinetic.  Think of your story as a billiards table with balls scattered about.  You are the player with the cue.  You TAP a ball, it flies across the table with enough kinetic energy to SMACK into another ball.  That ball rolls less energetically (some energy got absorbed in the smack) and hits another ball that just barely moves -- but falls into a pocket.

That's a story. 

The main character grabs some energy and a tool (the stick, your muscles) and SMACKS another character -- with an idea, a sloe-eyed glance, a stinging insult, out-right defiance of authority, or slinking behind someone's back. 

It doesn't matter so much what the ACT is, but it matters that on page 1 your main character is introduced first, and the first thing any reader learns about him/her is via their ACTION -- that the reader must interpret to suit the reader, not to suit the writer.

In other words, you create a character, and introduce that character to the reader in a SHOW DON'T TELL -- an action.

Now, first decide if your POV character is The Hero or The Bully, then create the Situation etc that will lay out your theme in visuals, in pictures, and in what seems to the reader as mere decoration. 

If your POV Character is The Hero, his first ACTION on that first page must be a SAVE THE CAT! action -- he has to "save the cat" as defined by Blake Snyder.

What does it mean to save the cat?  It's an action which puts the character at risk in some way (doesn't have to be life and limb).  Something is at stake for The Hero that will seem to the reader to be more vital -- more crucial or important -- than what is at stake for the "owner" of the cat. 

"The Hero" is a character who risks losing something of vast importance of his own in order to mitigate, offset, or eliminate (rescue), a LESSER LOSS for someone else.

How the person who is rescued then reacts (doing things,) to the Hero reveals that secondary character's worthiness to be rescued.  How each assesses what might have been lost against what might have been gained provides the SPRINGBOARD for a Romance. 

Differing 'values' are source of conflict that is the energy to power your springboard or billiards game.

So back to billiards -- "conflict" is the point where your cue's point hits the billiard ball.  That's the initial conflict defined on page 1.

Prior to that point, there is only potential energy, -- the thought, the chalking of the cue, the study of the lay of the table, the measuring of angles, the positioning, and the working of muscles in which potential energy is stored -- all of that is "backstory" --then the energy is RELEASED in that SMACK, or the springboard rebounds.

Contact between the cue and the ball is conflict illustrated.  That is the point at which the two elements that will conflict to generate the plot first meet.  And that's the definition of a story opening.  The ending is where the ball falls into the pocket (HEA) or fails to fall in (sad ending or teaser for a sequel.)

The Hero is a character who has a vast amount of potential energy, maybe isn't aware of it or doesn't care, but also has the most to lose, and doesn't dwell on The Stakes.

That's one key to success in the climb to high places noted in this blog entry:

In the book cited in that entry, the point is clear that high profile (celebrities, politicians, people in the news all their lives) liars never consider what might happen if they're caught.  They never worry about what it would mean to lose.  They don't worry about The Stakes. 

So read Dialogue Part 5 to see how to construct the inner dialogue as well as the spoken dialogue.  It's not just what you put there, but what you leave out that shows rather than tells what stuff your character is made of. 

The core definition of Hero is the person who handles their own power well.

The core definition of a Bully is the person who has more power than they can handle.

A bully is a sad sack indeed, but instead of feeling sorry for such people we often cringe in fear before them.

That's not irrational.  There is nothing more dangerous than a 3 year old with a loaded gun with the safety off.  That image pretty much defines the bully.

The bully has deep, twisted, terrible emotional problems that viciate their strength of character.  When such a person is physically larger than his/her peers, has a larger reputation, more charisma (the High School clique leader), more powerful parents, employer, associates, has weaponry that out-guns others, that power will be put to the service of assuaging that person's emotional issues.

That's the way every human being is made.

It is depicted in Astrology (as explained by Noel Tyl) as the Moon, Saturn and the Sun as positioned in the natal chart.  The Moon represents the emotional core of essential NEEDS, or what you WANT (what you always feel is missing no matter how much you have).  Saturn represents your ambition.  The Sun represents your energy -- how it flows into and through you, driving your actions.

The key that Noel Tyl teaches with astrology is that a personality will organize (by maturity) to put the ambition and energy at the service of the reigning need.  Life is lived trying to fulfill that need.  Tyl also factors in the Moon's nodes and aspects to them to get a picture of the internalized stresses acquired in childhood which people work out in later life.

A Bully is someone who has more Need than Power.

A Hero is someone who has more Power than Need.

If your story is about a Hero, your theme will have to reflect that strength of character that controls, subverts, dismisses, ignores -- or whatever mechanism -- the character's reigning Need. 

If your story is about a Bully, your theme will have to reflect that weakness of character that lets the screaming pain at the center of this person dominate all actions, reactions, ambitions and goals, whether the person knows it or not.

In either case, Hero or Bully, your theme will have to deal with the Source of Power, the method of accumulating Power, the use of Power, the goals that Power is aimed at, and of course the theme determines the ending. 

If the Bully wins, you are making a thematic statement that the way to an HEA is to use Power to assuage Need.

If the Hero wins, you are making a thematic statement that the way to an HEA is to use Need (sensitivity to others) to harness Power. 

The Hero uses Power in the service of other people's needs.  The Hero doesn't feel deprived, doesn't feel he/she is Giving anything because the Hero has so much extra Power, and is tapped into the Divine Source of power which the Hero knows is not his/her own, so that whatever impossible task is presented, it is accomplished without diminishing the Hero's Power.

The Bully, on the other hand, goes around with something to prove, and a Need not just to be dominant, but to make everyone acknowledge that dominance.

The Hero does not dominate, and has no need for anyone to know he/she exists nevermind has a lot of Power.

The Bully is insatiably thirsty for more and more Power -- somehow knowing that to make the screaming Need shut up, there has to be more Power than Need. 

And that's true.  It is one way to turn a Bully into a Hero. 

Experiencing, even for a moment, enough power to shut that need up can change an individual's entire personality.  There are two ways to accomplish that reversal of proportion of Power and Need.  You can reduce the amount of Need, or you can increase the amount of Power. 

Thus a young Bully can be 'cured' by having a victim stand up and smack him down in front of his cronies.  This reduces the amount of social Power the Bully has -- and if it reduces the Power level to below the Need level, the Bully can become a level-headed functioning member of society who is ashamed of his prior behavior.  It's all a matter of the relative intensity of the potential energy tied up in Need and Power.

Also a Hero can be transformed into a Bully by reversing the proportions of Need and Power.  That's the source of the saying, "Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely." 

Any individual can have their Power/Need balance disrupted and find their character cracked and crumbling (high drama in that; tragedy and death or hard lessons learned).  The Wisdom to avoid taking on more power than the character can handle is not usually a trait of the Hero.  Wisdom is usually a trait of the archetype of The King or The Priest -- that is, the elders who made that mistake decades ago and learned from it.

Astrology does not say you are a Hero or a Bully.  The Sun, Moon, Saturn relationship does not determine that at all.  It's not what you've got that matters, but how you choose to use it.

The true Hero confronting a Bully will see himself in that Bully -- and know how to handle that particular Bully to bring the Power/Need balance to functional proportions.

As I said, there are two ways to cure a Bully -- reduce Need or increase Power.  Psychiatrists prescribe drugs to reduce Need.  Politicians prescribe more control of public funds to increase Power.

In any universe you create for your characters, if you choose to tell the story of a Bully vs. a Hero, you will have to deal with themes involving the use and abuse of Power.

Here is a discussion of Six Kind of Power in a Relationship:


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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