Using THEME to build CHARACTERS and how doing it this way can greatly IMPROVE your overall understanding of the CONFLICT.

As we were discussing before, a theme is an argument between two posited ideas, a TRUTH and a LIE. And so, a thematic premise has two opposite sides:

  • A truth that must be discovered.
  • And a lie that is believed.

Discovered and believed by whom you might ask, aren’t you a smart individual, eh? Well, obviously we’re talking about the protagonist of the story, right?

You remember when we talked about needs and wants? Think about it like this:

  • Truth = Need.
  • Lie= Want.

Most of the time, a protagonist enters the plot because they believe some lie that is expressed as a desire or want, they think they need this obviously wrong thing to be happier or to take revenge or whatever egotistic idea you can come up with. Yet in reality, what they really need is to get a sense of a deeper truth they can’t initially see.

This truth has the power to make them change in profound ways.

A character’s conflict with others or with the world of the story is almost inevitably a reflection and/or a projection of inner conflicts. In other words, the plot reflects/projects the character’s inner struggle upon an external world. Also, lies and truths will often translate into literal objects, persons or states within the external plot.

The most obvious translation would be the lie, which inevitably becomes the seed of the antagonist.

But what is this inner struggle of the character through the lens of the theme?

Is actually the tension between the two previously mentioned aspects:

  • The thing the character wants (the lie).
  • The thing the character needs (the truth).

And the clash between these two aspects creates the conflict.

Ultimately, what the character wants is the plot goal (external), and is not necessarily a bad thing all together, more so it represents a negative mindset or motivation regarding a problem or way of living.

This lie the protagonist believes is what prevents them from moving towards health, constantly pushing them back, making them sick.

But what is this lie and why the character even believes it?

This is because at the root of it there’s a ghost from the character’s past. Remember what ghost is? Simply put… TRAUMA!

Ghost —- Lie (believed) —- Desire —- Rising action —- Plot Goal

                   Psych. Flaw      (abstract      (Variations            Need (Truth).

                                              or concrete)  of Theme)

In the schematic above, we can see how the ghost or trauma makes the character believe a lie that throws them into the plot because of their desires, then facing rising action that expresses many variations on the theme being conveyed and ending in the plot goal or objective, where the truth the character needs to grow is expressed.

So, the protagonist’s final choice in the story is between what they want and what they need and it will mostly be externalized in a metaphor that proves a corresponding choice between the lie and the truth.

Isn’t that amazing! Next time we’ll dive deeper into character creation utilizing our chosen theme, until then…

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