Saturday, November 19, 2005

The DUAL-NATURED Character

Building --
The Dual-Natured Character
Let’s start this lecture with a HUGE secret:
There are Three Essential Characters in Every Story --
  • Adversary – The one causing all the trouble.
  • Proponent – The one trying to keep things the way they are.
  • Ally (Middle-man) – The close companion of one or the other.
Translation: You can tell any story with ONLY these Three Characters; perhaps not with any real detail, but you could still do the entire basic plotline.

-- And each essential character is governed by One of three SPECIFIC aspects, or Drives:
  • MOTIVE - Driven by a REASON to get involved and stir things up, such as Revenge.
  • ACTION - Driven by the need to ACT, usually because they've been pushed into it.
  • EMOTION - Driven by an EMOTIONALLY Impulsive Reaction and leaping before they look.
There may be any number of side characters, but in traditional Adventures and Romances of every stripe (erotic or not,) the main conflict is always a triangle of these complimentary opposite drives. Just to make things Truly confusing, the Hero, the Heroine, and the Villain can be any one of them!
  • In ‘Leon – the Professional’, Leon is a very action-driven professional assassin Ally Hero bothered into taking in his motive-driven and Adversarial Heroine who was looking for a safe haven from a very emotionally-driven and impulsive Proponant Villain cop.
  • In ‘Tomb Raider’ Lara Croft is an action-driven Proponant Heroine with emotionally-driven impulsive Allies and adversarial paramours that are usually, if not always, motive-driven.
  • In ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’, the Sheriff of Nottingham plays the impulsive Emotionally-Driven Proponent Villain to Robin Hood’s motive-driven Adversarial Hero. Maid Marian is an action-driven Ally Heroine.
  • In ‘The Crow’, Eric Draven is the very Adversarial and motive-driven Hero who goes after the action-driven Proponent Villain merely trying to keep his little kingdom of crime under control. The little girl Nell, is Eric’s impulsive emotionally-driven Ally Heroine, who gets caught in the cross-fire, like any other side-kick.
Why does this matter?
- A Dual-Natured character should possess TWO DRIVES - one for each side of their nature.

Man against Himself
- When a character is at war against his inner-nature, you treat both his likeable nature, and his unlikable nature, as separate drives, separate URGES that are darn near separate entities. (Pick any two drives: Motive / Action / Emotion.)

  • Inner ManEmotionally Driven to Protect
  • Inner BeastAction Driven to Destroy
Additionally, the other two main characters should participate in bringing attention to the drive / personality split.
  • Hero = Divided character
  • Ally / Lover = Represents everything the character Wants, (and likes about themselves.)
  • Villain = Represents everything the character Hates, (and despises about themselves.)
Duality = Main Conflict
- In a story where a character’s opposing nature (inner-man verses inner-beast,) is heavily pronounced -- enough so, that two opposing drives are necessary to express this split in personality, the character and his battle with his inner nature overpowers the story – and in fact BECOMES the story.

Regardless of what you may have intended to write, once you split their natures into Two Drives, your character’s “duality” becomes the story’s Core Issue = the PREMISE. Resolving that “duality” that division in their nature becomes the story’s main conflict. Hint: The Character assumes the third drive (Action / Motive / Emotion) to resolve their split.

The CURE -- or not?

-----Original Message-----
What about a fight to find a "cure", for the duel-natured character, like a werewolf?”

The BIG Secret!

- A “Dual Nature” in Fiction is symbolic of a Psychological Issue – not a Physical Issue.

Every monster you can think of is in actuality, a symbol of a Human Issue from the dark side of the psyche.
  • Ghosts = Memories that ‘haunt’
  • Vampires = Manipulative Male Sexuality
  • Witches =Manipulative Female Sexuality
  • Sorcerers & Scientists = Control – either loss of, or overwhelming
  • Werewolves = Passions that Consume
  • Faeries = Inability to fit in with the society. This is why Urban Faeries tend to have a ‘punk’ look to them.
  • Monsters in general = Destruction
(What? So, I read a lot of Carl Jung, Wilhelm Riche, Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary…)

One does NOT CURE a Psychological Issue.
One learns to ADJUST to it.

It is a Proven Fact: There are No medicinal Cures for Psychological Issues. Drugs do NOT make psychological issues go away - they merely SUPPRESS their symptoms.

There is only ONE satisfactory Answer 
to a split in Nature / Personality:
Acceptance and INTEGRATION.
The only other option is madness and death.

The search for a Cure is a (symbolic) delay tactic – something the character does to Run Away from his ISSUE rather than face it.

A character’s “Dual Nature” should be written as Two Necessary halves, that need to come together to defeat the bad guy. In fact the two halves of a personality split MUST integrate if you are to have a happy and satisfying ending.

A CURE should be used precisely in the same fashion as a medical cure is used for any psychological issue: as a Delay Tactic to Avoid the Issue by Suppressing the Issue.

The application of a Cure should be used as symbolic proof of the character's FAILURE to face and deal with their personal Issue.

Failure and the CURE: Van Helsing
- In the movie “Van Helsing” the Premise: “Man vs. Monster” demanded that the answer be “self control”.

Gabriel was changed into a werewolf – symbol of a complete lack of control over one’s temper, (and everything Gabriel suppressed within himself.) He went from Action-Driven man to Emotion-Driven monster, which was necessary to defeat the Motive-Driven vampire.

Logically, (plot-wise,) Gabriel should have gained self-control over his second nature (becoming Motive-driven to control himself,) and thus remained a werewolf, albeit able to transform at will - gaining the prize of Controlled Fury -- and the girl. 

However, after his battle, he was unable to come to terms with his “emotional” nature. He failed to gain self-control of his Temper, and Killed his Heroine, symbol of everything he Could have had – unconditional acceptance and love.

She forgave him, (as a ghost) but that did not change the fact that he had Failed to accept himself.

The movie’s writer had no intention of killing off his character, so a remorseful suicidal cliff-dive was right out. Instead, Gabriel was cured. However, this “cure” is a blatant flag that Gabriel will have to face this same issue again, in a later story.

Just to keep things rounded...
Man against Nature
A “man against nature” tale, is in fact a “man against himself” story. The Nature elements, that the character is “in opposition” with, are Symbolic Representations of the Opposing Drives within the character.

Case in point:
‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Hemmingway
  • Old Man Motive driven to fish.
  • Ocean / Weather – Constantly in motion, this is the Symbol of the man’s opposing drive of Action. (Fishing takes inaction and patience.)
  • Shark – This is the Symbol of the old man’s impulsive Emotional drive to Survive. This is the drive he must adopt to live.
Man against Man
When you have only two characters: Proponent, and Adversary, you give each character an opposing Primary Drive and additionally, opposite aspects of the third (left-over) drive as a Sub-drive.

In the movie “Ravenous”...
Proponent – Captain Boyd
  • Main drive: Emotion Driven ("Why is this Happening to me?")
  • Sub-drive: Action Driven in the aspect of Refusal to Act.
Adversary – Calhoun
  • Main drive: Motive Driven ("I will Make something Happen.")
  • Sub-drive: Action Driven in the aspect of Determined to Act.
Circumstances force the “Hero” to become the Third drive, while the "Villain” resists this change in drives.

The Villain's Inability to Change is why the Villain LOSES to the Hero.

Never forget:

Reality may be full of Random events – but
Fiction MUST make Sense.

Morgan Hawke