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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Doctor is IN:

First of all, thank you Dr. Jeff for answering these questions on The Rouge Wave and thank you to Julie for arranging it.

My question is regarding character flaws and arc, etc. We know that a great character has a flaw/challenge that they are trying to overcome, and some character arcs involve the character rising to the challenge and some reject it.

What are some believable ways that a character overcomes their flaw/challenge? What makes a character finally choose to overcome or set aside their flaw? Someone can have an opponent, ally, or opponent/ally pressing them to overcome that flaw for years, so what might make them finally take that step?

Trina Koning MacDonald

Dear Trina,

While lots of spiritually evolved people had relatively easy childhoods, the majority didn’t. They came from harsh, abusive pasts which put them on the quest to go through Hell to get to Heaven. These painful childhoods became the compost by which either their lives remained piles of shit or became the fertilizer for growing the flowers, (i.e., the roots of the transformation.)

What finally makes “real life” or “reel life” heroes and heroines take the big step? Generally, something happens or keeps happening that put them up against it. Thus, it becomes intolerable to not do… not strive… not battle. Clint Eastwood in “The Outlaw Josey Wales” says, (and I near quote) “When you’re backed in a corner, surrounded by enemies, outnumbered, out-manned, out-gunned… THAT’S WHEN YOU GET PLUMB DOG MEAN!” Something huge is at stake and the protagonist goes down swinging rather than just goes down.

The way a transformation becomes believable is either, or both;

A) the deck gets gradually (or quickly) stacked against the protagonist. It finally reaches a crescendo/breaking point where the next act against them becomes the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’ --- and our own frustration, as the viewing audience, (watching them suffer these indignities) becomes so heightened that we’re right with them when they won’t take it anymore.


B) The small steps made throughout by the protagonist support (in believability) the ‘Big Step” i.e., the new internal stance or external behavior.

The thing about film, according to Robert McKee in his award winning ‘Story’ is that at the end of a movie we want a “permanent, irreversible change in the protagonist.’ This ‘reel life’ nuttiness is not ‘real life’. Breakthroughs in life generally don’t last. They are so far from where a person normally lives that it is nearly impossible to anchor it in a new elevated place without major slippage. So, if a movie is to ring true, the incremental process, the baby steps leading to the big step (transformation) must hold true.

Take care,
Doctor Jeff

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1 comment:

Tyler said...

These Dr. Jeff posts are always so elucidating and inspiring... as good as Julie's incredible posts. Dr. Jeff should get his own blog!