18 June 2013

How Character Emotional Development Merges with Thematic Significance

A character's belief system directly influences the choices she makes.

The following are three different reactions to the same experience based on three different belief systems or three different character emotional developments. Each example offers its own thematic significance or deeper meaning.

The protagonist is a single mother. With children to feed, she is grateful to be hired on as a night watchman. Once on the job, the woman hears screams and pleads come from the warehouse on the property she is responsible for.

She witnesses the boss zap the workers with a cattle prod. Workers beg for mercy as they are held against their will. The boss instructs the woman to throw the switch to electrical fence if any of the workers try to escape over barbed wire. They will be electrocuted. The boss leaves.

Up until this point, the woman has shown disbelief on her face and discomfort in her body language. Even so, she does as she is told. With the electric fence in play, the character must make a decision when the workers plead for mercy as they try to escape.

3 Different Emotional Development Reflecting 3 Different Meanings to the Story
The workers pleads with her:
1) If the protagonist believes that to keep your job, you do what you are told, no matter how inhumane you believe it is, she throws the switch.

2) If protagonist believes that when someone is down kick him, she not only throws switch, she also kicks the workers as they wither on the ground in panic and pain.

3) If the theme of the story is that there comes a time in everyone’s life when you have to take a stand, the protagonist refuses to throw the switch and restrains the boss from using the cattle prod, frees the workers and quits the job.

In each segment, the protagonist’s emotional development based on her belief system and developed directly from her backstory wound, plays directly into the deeper meaning of your story.

(Excerpt taken from:  Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple: Take the Panic Out of Plot.)

For an in-depth resource to all the questions to ask about conflict when writing a novel, memoir, screeplay, refer to  The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories.


1) Track Your Plot at the Scene Level Webinar
Learn to Maximize the 7 essential plot elements in every scene (one of 7 essential plot elements in every scene is CONFLICT) from the comfort of your own home.

Knowing what to write where in a story with a plot allows for a more loving relationship with your writing. Whether writing a first draft or revising, if you falter wondering what comes next in a story with a plot, follow the prompts inThe Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing

Today, I write.

To familiarize yourself with the basic plot terms used here and in the PW Book of Prompts:

1) Watch the plot playlists on the Plot Whisperer Youtube channel.
2) Read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
3) Fill out the exercises in The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories
4) Visit:
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