18 June 2014

Character Emotional Development: Transformation and Emotional Maturity

The emotional steadiness your protagonist develops in a story (character emotional development plot) from all that happens to her (dramatic action plot), I call change, maturity, transformation, transcendence (your genre and your story -- action-driven | character-driven -- define the level of character development that fits the underlying meaning of your own individual story).

The lessons she learns in the middle, having suffered greatly and paid dearly, lead to this change at the end of the story. All of the lessons and wisdom and skills and abilities she learns are critical for her ultimate success at the Climax.

Some abilities and skills are external and necessary to complete the dramatic action plot. Others are internal. All of the internal lessons and wisdom gained point directly to emotional maturity as shown by the protagonist's ability to understand and manage at the end those same emotions that continually tripped her up in the beginning and then felled her in the middle of the story.

Characters who have endured trauma, deception, abandonment, betrayal, abuse, pain, loss, sadness either before the story begins or during the story and are left unhealed (backstory wound) typically become emotionally stuck at the time and place of the trauma. For her to achieve her goal, she must first become conscious of her backstory wound and then move towards healing the past in order to successfully move into the future.

The following are some traits that point to emotional immaturity (as shown in the beginning and deepened in the middle of the story) compared to emotional maturity (as shown at the end of the story):
  • Own Desires versus Delayed Gratification = Ability to keep long-term commitments
  • Blaming versus Responsible = Acceptance of current life circumstances as a result of personal decisions
  • Intellect versus Intuition = "See" a solution and research best course of action
  • Reactive versus Proactive = Value-based decision-making
  • All the Answers versus Open-Minded = Desire to learn and seek counsel
  • Rigid versus Adaptable = Willing to be flexible. Open to change
  • Self-conscious versus We are All One = Possesses a spirit of humility
  • Narrow-minded versus Alternative Views = Open to others' opinions and views
  • Critical versus Non-judgemental = Respect for others' right to their beliefs
  • Entitled versus Grateful = Appreciative
  • Shutdown versus Resilient = Express disappointments, plot a plan, move on
  • Erratic Mood Swings versus Emotional Steadiness = Peaceful state of mind
  • Uncooperative versus Realistic Optimism = Willingness to seek out opportunities
  • Removed and Shutdown versus Approachable = Actively building relationships
  • Shaken versus Steady = Secure in who you are
  • Intense versus Humor = Not taking oneself too seriously
Need more help with your story? 
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  • Lots of action, no character development? Lots of character development and no action?
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  • Wishing you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
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