Margo’s Shadows TV Series Project (4th draft)

“Even if an endeavor built on lies seems to get off to a good start, the truth will always prevail in the long run”.

Logline.

Margo, a world-class procrastinator, has a chance at success by stealing the shadows of the talented, taking their abilities but causing turmoil that forces her to assume major responsibilities which could bring about the end of the world.

K.M. WEILAND’S TEMPLATE TO CREATE THE BACKBONE OF A STORY USING THEME (7TH PART).

Okay! it’s time for the seventh part of our series about K.M. Weiland’s theme template. And I think we have an amazing story in our hands.

Let’s make a quick recap of the things we have so far!

We have a protagonist, who is a selfless and skillful person. A war orphan who becomes a killing machine, a person who has learned to gain new abilities fast to survive. Because of exemplary achievements during the war, he’s awarded higher education and chooses a medical career as he feels guilty for killing so many people. Yet, something strange happens, he gains fame for being “coldhearted” as he approaches cases with a clear mindset, “if a person is beyond saving it’s better not to attempt a procedure“ is his motto, which expresses the lie he believes, that in hope there’s only pain and death.

Our doctor protagonist gets accused of letting a patient die in the operating room. Worst, this patient is actually one of the enemy soldiers that brutally murder his family in the past. Yet, he doesn’t go to a regular prison, he goes into a prison town where he and other prisoners have to participate in a series of almost unsolvable puzzles, in order to earn food for their families. Failing a puzzle means death, but a participant has the opportunity to choose a family member to die for them, this will keep them in the game.

The winner of this prison challenge can opt to become the new warden of the prison town and can even choose to free all of the participants. But, our antagonist, the warden of the town, is a former prisoner and a stone-cold killer who feels the need to punish criminals and who’s comfortable with his power position.

The people in charge of choosing which prisoners go to prison town don’t have the information about our protagonist being a former soldier. They only know that he’s a coldhearted doctor who left a patient to die.

Now, we also stablished the way in which the unsolvable puzzles run.

A network of courses of actions (or ways to achieve a specific result), but they’re placed in a way that’s confusing and dazing and can only be surpassed using high military skills and/or gaining a new ability really fast, while being coldhearted.

And we said that “being coldhearted” means that one has to pass on the initial impulsive feeling of doing something and wait, analyze and reflect, in doing so you find patterns that weren’t initially available.

Okay! So, in our last session, our protagonist proves his worth by analyzing the problem in front of him. A puzzle in which prisoners have to escape a maze using strange collars with decreasing numbers on them. As the familiar waiting on the other side of the maze rants against him, thinking our protagonist has left them to die, he figures out the puzzle and runs towards the exit, saving not only his life and his familiar one, but everyone else still alive inside the maze.

This time, we’ll discover how the antagonistic forces respond to this incredible act of skills and guts, as our protagonist immerses himself fully into our plot.

Now, as we said in our previous session, the antagonist’s objective for this first challenge was to kickstart the reality TV show. For that to happen, they needed a great number of deaths inside the maze. But our protagonist prevented this to happen by solving the riddle inside.

While taking the decision to solve the puzzle and win the first challenge, what our protagonist actually did was to make the decision to go ahead in facing the dilemma presented to him, effectively starting the plot and the series of events which will lead to an inevitable resolution. His first win also represents the end of act one, as our character prepares to immerse himself fully into the conflict.

So, where to go from here?

According to K.M. Weiland’s theme template, we’re now entering the second act of our story. This time, we have to design the next step in our journey; “an aspect of the truth acting as an antidote to the specific lie, a moment of truth“.

As we came into our story, especially thinking about our setting, we have been surrounded by a powerful idea, that having hopes of surviving the prison town’s reality TV show leads prisoners to suffer and die while facing the sadistic challenges presented to them. In a previous session we also included the idea that the warden is completely against letting anyone win, because doing so would mean him loosing the power position he holds.

Let’s explore this idea, let’s say that prisoners, especially senior ones, already know that is impossible to win. Yet, they fail or don’t care to convince new members that is better to just survive, rather than to attempt to win. These senior prisoners have also become extremely efficient at surviving, they don’t care about winning, and they may even use newcomers to gain precious insight as to how to stay alive.

As such, we have two kinds of prisoners:

  • Newcomers.
  • Senior prisoners.

Now, our protagonist’s heroic feat has to have shaken more than one of these senior prisoners cages, right? Why is this so important? because one of them can become a powerful ally, a mentor even. Why is this so important? Remember our truth:

  • Hope gives people a reason to live.

Our protagonist still doesn’t have any hope for him, but his amazing victory has sent ripples of hope across the prison town. Families have started talking again, conversations now include a key element; there’s a possibility of winning this thing.

And what is that in a nutshell? Hope!

And what about our protagonist, what happened to him after winning?

As our current step indicates, this is the moment in which he makes the decision to fully immerse into the conflict, and as a result, he also fully immerses in his inner conflict between lie and truth:

  • Truth; If generally “Hope gives people a reason to live”, then specifically, “Hope can help you survive and be free from injustice”.
  • Lie; If generally “Hope makes people suffer and waste their lives”, then specifically, “Hope can make you suffer and get you killed”.

So, let’s say that, after his victory, prison guards take our protagonist backstage. Not for a congratulation party, but to beat him up for ruining the first episode of the TV show. And you know what else, after the beating he gets to meet the prison warden, who’s eager to face the man who made a mockery of his plans. As the two characters meet, a shocking revelation transpires. The warden is no other than the senior military officer that ordered the killing of our protagonist’s family. Let’s make it worst, he was the one who first pulled the trigger. And even worst than that, he enjoyed it.

As the warden interrogates our protagonist, trying to understand how a simple physician was able to decipher and win the first challenge, our protagonist makes the utmost effort to keep his emotions hidden, inside he’s bursting with anger and murderous intent, but outside he remains calm. He doesn’t stop gathering information, doesn’t stop searching, grinding for an opportunity. Because of this, the warden makes his first mistake, he underestimates our protagonist’s capabilities, effectively letting him go after checking that the whole thing was just a stroke of luck.

The guards bring our protagonist, all beaten up, back to his house in prison town for all to see. Prisoners and families, both newcomers and senior ones, have had the day to taste the sweet nectar of hope. But, watching their new hero in this shape, how many of them will be strong enough to keep it?

Guess we’ll have to wait for the next time to know! One thing is certain, our protagonist has not given up, in fact, he now has a powerful reason to face the challenge ahead, the possibility of vengeance.

And with that idea, we end this chapter of our journey through K.M. Weiland’s theme template. Next time, we’ll be facing the first part of the second act, the trials phase, where our protagonist will gain a growing awareness of the truth. Until that time comes, good luck in writing!

K.M. WEILAND’S TEMPLATE TO CREATE THE BACKBONE OF A STORY USING THEME (6TH PART).

It’s time for the sixth part of our series on K.M. Weiland’s theme template. So, what do we have so far?

We have a protagonist, who is a selfless and skillful person, trapped inside a town where he and other prisoners have to participate in a series of challenges, either to win or to survive, in order to maintain their families, to earn their food. Failing to do so means they must die, but a participant has the opportunity of choosing a family member to die for them, this will keep them in the game.

The winner of the challenge can opt to become the new warden of this prison town and can even choose to free all of the participants. Our antagonist is the warden of the town, a former prisoner who feels the need to punish criminals and who’s comfortable with his power position.

In our last session, we established the second major element of the first act, our story’s small introductory truth. Which it’s comprised of the following elements:

  • An unsolvable puzzle challenge.
  • The almost certain possibility of dying for most of the participants.
  • The need for this to happen for the warden’s program to have a great start.
  • The protagonist skillfully solving this puzzle and the saving of many.

We’ll also retrieve the first major element of the first act, the manifestation of the big lie:

  • Hope makes people suffer and waste their lives.

Which in our story is comprised of our setting, the prison town, and our antagonist, the warden, who offers false hope in the shape of a sick challenge.

Now, we need to design our unsolvable puzzle and the grand scheme of the prison challenge. But, to do so, we first need to understand our protagonist, because if he’s going to be able to skillfully solve this challenge, we need to give him the tools and abilities to do so.

So the question is… Who is our protagonist?

As always, let’s start our development by bringing forth all of the information we have available. We know that he believes that hope can make you suffer and get you killed and that this belief comes from witnessing the death of his mother and sisters. We also know that his wound is fear of change, with the following traits:

  • Chooses to not get involved emotionally.
  • Doesn’t have an opinion on things that can cause backlash.
  • Prefers enclosure.
  • Doesn’t trust others.

Lastly, we know he’s skillful and selfless and that these character traits are his primary weapons.

Now, let’s think for a moment. What type of person, who by the way is an orphan, develops the ability to show talent or adeptness (which is the definition of skillful)? I want to detain myself in the word adeptness, which means to gain an ability without difficulty. This means that our protagonist can learn and execute new abilities, perform learned abilities and overall learn at a staggering speed.

If we consider the fact that he’s an orphan, this means he has had to be competing with other kids from an early age. So, let’s say that after losing his family in a war situation (you can check that part here) he had to survive on his own, effectively escaping from enemy lines. Not only that, but being an orphan, our protagonist had to enlist in the army and return to fight the war. Imagine our hero coming back home, to the place where enemy soldiers killed his family, just because they had the hope of their father to come back. This has to be an iconic image in his mind.

So, what happens after the war? We have an orphan killing machine, a person who has learned to gain new abilities fast to survive. Let’s say that, because of exemplary achievements during the war, he was awarded higher education. He chooses a medical career as he feels guilty for killing so many people. Yet, something strange happens, he gains fame for being “coldhearted” as he approaches cases with a clear mindset, “if a person is beyond saving it’s better not to attempt a procedure“. You see what is happening? here we have the manifestation of the lie the character believes, that in hope there’s only pain and death.

Now, let’s toss our protagonist into the story.

How? Let’s choose our inciting incident!

How about this?

Our doctor protagonist, who has a coldhearted reputation, gets accused of letting a patient die in the operating room. Why? because this patient is actually one of the enemy soldiers that attacked his family in the past. Did he do it? Did our protagonist let his enemy die to take revenge for the death of his loved ones? We don’t know yet, what we do know is that a court finds him guilty and sentences him to prison. Yet, he doesn’t go to a regular prison, he goes into this prison town. This means that for the small introduction of the truth to be established successfully, we have to design the draft of participants blindly. What do I mean by this? the persons in charge of choosing which prisoners go to prison town can’t have the information about our protagonist being a former soldier. They only know that he’s a coldhearted doctor who left a patient to die.

And so, we already have plenty to design our unsolvable puzzle and the setting of the challenge, right?

We know that, in order to defeat the first stage we need:

  • To learn a new ability really fast.
  • Need to use some high military skills.
  • Need to be coldhearted.

We also know that our protagonist’s first objective is not only to win this challenge but also to save as many people as possible.

Military people usually learn abilities by procedure, this means that they mentally break a problem into small pieces and go about them in an orderly fashion. So maybe the challenge involves a series of steps. Taking into consideration that the overall objective of the story is to escape prison, let’s say the challenge objective is also to escape, this gives us the setting, this challenge is a maze.

So, what’s a maze?

There are two definitions we can use. A “network of paths” and  “dazed and confused“, in both cases the idea being “to find the way out“. Now, this is the interesting part, because of the word “path” which stands for “a course of action or way of achieving a specified result“.

So, the first challenge is…

A network of courses of actions (or ways to achieve a specific result), but they’re placed in a way that’s confusing and dazing and can only be surpassed using high military skills and/or gaining a new ability really fast, while being coldhearted.

But the thing is that being coldhearted to face the challenge ultimately means saving many. Do you feel some reminiscence now? Remember that our protagonist was accused of letting a patient die because of his coldhearted persona. What better way to test this idea in our first act than by making him face the same ordeal in our challenge! Not only to make him give us a clue as to what really happened in that operating room but also to state our main theme, that “hope gives people a reason to live” because he will become that hope by saving others.

Okay, let’s design our challenge!

As we already know, defeating the challenge gives the protagonist the possibility to save others. This means that solving the maze gives others the ability to do so themselves by understanding what needs to be done. We also know that you can die trying to solve the puzzle, but you can hope to survive because there’s a fixed time limit and that the objective of the challenge is to kill as many participants as possible to make the first round a successful one.

One key element that can help us now is the “being coldhearted”, which means that one has to pass on the initial impulsive feeling of doing something and wait, analyze and reflect, in doing so you find patterns that weren’t initially available.

These patterns reveal a course of action, meaning you find the rules, which are simple but are hidden.
So, there’s initial misleading information that makes people act without thinking, maybe some time limit.
Let’s say that there’s an overall 2 minutes count to finish the maze and each participant has a collar with a 10 points meter that activates once you’re inside the maze. The initial misleading information is that, if the prisoner can’t finish the maze in the 2 minutes, the person waiting on the other side of the maze, a loved one, will die.

There’s an urgency to act, but also that doing so is a mistake.

The 10 points collars are activated once you enter the maze, so the protagonist hesitates before entering, he takes the time to analyze the situation while others rush inside, he’s trying to find the hidden patterns. But his loved one on the other side of the maze thinks he’s going to stay there, him being cold-hearted and all, right? Let’s amp this idea further. If the prisoner abstains from entering the maze they can live, and the person on the other side dies.

Also, as long as you keep having points you can move, if points reach 0, the collar in your neck explodes and you die. Initially, no one understands what makes you lose or gain points, yet after a while, those who were looking instead of rushing see some patterns emerging.

This means that a good decision would be to find a way of keeping points while moving forward.
So, there’s a pattern to be found on the floor.

Stepping on certain terrain takes points from you while stepping on another type of terrain gives you points.

Now, there’s only one particular combination of steps that ensures getting to the end of the maze. But it’s so hard to accomplish that, in the event of someone doing so, every participant gets saved.

As such, all possible results are as follows:

• If the prisoner stays out of the maze, the familiar at the other end dies.
• If the prisoner runs out of points inside the maze, they die.
• If the prisoner reaches 1 point and stays put, he survives but the familiar dies.
• If a person gets to the other side before time finishes, all participants are saved. (This has never happened).

And so, as the other participants desperately rush inside the maze, activating the collars and impulsively stepping on the different terrains without understanding what’s making them lose points. While collars explode and people’s heads are severed, our protagonist stays put, he only watches in silence, focused on emerging patterns, learning.

Things are such that he can even listen to the voice of his loved one on the other side, as this person believes our protagonist has left them to die and lashes out by giving a hurtful speech against him. Yet he’s not deterred by this, with each passing moment things become clearer, and at the limit between the remaining time on the clock and the amount of time needed to solve the maze, he obtains the correct pattern of steps and rushes into the maze. As other participants, now without more than 1 point left get stuck before getting to the end and having to listen to the cries of their loved ones, he goes forward against time and odds, managing to get to the endpoint just as the clock reaches zero.

Effectively winning the first challenge and saving all the remaining participants.

Okay! man that was some difficult work! but it was worth it because now we understand the mechanics of our challenge in this prison town and we know a lot more about our protagonist. Next time we’re moving forward with the story and with K.M. Weiland’s theme template. This time, we’ll discover how the antagonistic forces respond to this incredible act of skills and guts, as our protagonist immerses himself fully into our plot.

Until that time comes… Good luck in writing!

K.M WEILAND’S TEMPLATE TO CREATE THE BACKBONE OF A STORY USING THEME (5TH PART).

And we’re back! and we already have all of the ingredients that we needed for our story to take off, remember?

We had all of these ingredients:

  • A prison setting.
  • A selfless character inspiring new hope by achieving teamwork amongst criminals.
  • An antagonist who considers prisoners as inferiors and pins them against each other to profit.
  • A contest/challenge in which prisoners compete with the false hope of achieving freedom.

To add originality, we changed the original idea, keeping the core elements, and the result was something like this:

Our prison setting is in fact some sort of reality show in which participants live in a small town with their families. But they can’t escape from this town under the death penalty.

Our protagonist is a selfless and skillful person who get’s trapped inside this town, where he and other prisoners have to participate in a series of challenges, either to win or to survive, in order to maintain their families, to earn their food. Failing to do so means they must die, but a participant has the opportunity of choosing a family member to die for them, this will keep them in the game.

The one participant who wins all of the challenges can opt to become the new warden of this prison town and can even choose to free all of the participants (who are mostly criminals). But to do so, they all have to face the current warden of the town, a former prisoner who feels the need to punish criminals and who’s comfortable with his power position.

Now, according to K.M. Weiland’s theme template, we should move into the second key element of the first act, the story’s small introductory truth. Because all of the elements we’ve placed before this are part of the specific manifestation of the big lie. All of these previous elements feed a single idea:

  • Hope makes people suffer and waste their lives.

In this prison the only hope is to win the challenge, but the current warden will make sure no one wins so he can keep his job. So the hope that the situation arises is a false one, due to the fact that there’s no way the warden is letting anyone win.

So, what is the small introductory truth?

To answer this question, we need to start by stating our big truth and our specific truth, which were:

  • If generally “Hope gives people a reason to live”, then specifically, “Hope can help you survive and be free from injustice”.

The objective of the small introductory truth is to slowly open the protagonist’s awareness of the lie. This means that we have to find a way for our protagonist to understand that beyond the false belief that “hope can make you suffer and waste your life”, there’s a small chance of surviving, of being free once again.

If I were to guess, I would say that the protagonist has to accomplish something early on, something that wasn’t expected, maybe even something anyone has ever done before. By doing this, he would prove that the warden’s tight operation is not ready for him, that he can actually go beyond what’s expected, what the antagonistic forces are prepared for.

What can this be?

How about if the first challenge is impossible to beat, prisoners who participate can only hope to survive for a fixed amount of time. Let’s also say that this initial challenge is especially hard as it’s needed to kill many people at first, so the reality show rating quota is secured.

How about if the protagonist not only manages to figure out the challenge, but he’s also able to save as many people as possible. This would give us another important element in the story, all of the participants who listen to him are saved and all of those who don’t, those who fight on their own, are killed. Do you get it? this is the inception of the protagonist’s rise as the leader.

Okay! I think we have our small introductory truth. It’s comprised of the following elements:

  • An unsolvable puzzle challenge.
  • The almost certain possibility of dying for most of the participants.
  • The need for this to happen for the warden’s program to have a great start.
  • The protagonist skillfully solving this puzzle and the saving of many.

Now, to properly choose the correct puzzle challenge and especially how our protagonist is going to solve it, we first need to know him better. We need to understand who this person is, we already know that he’s a selfless and skillful person, yet we need to know specifics if we’re going to be able to tailor the challenge to him. And as you correctly guessed, that’s exactly what we’re going to do next time, when we dive deep into the protagonist’s backstory, we’ll create him, we’ll be at his side, we’ll understand why is him the only one able to win this prison town sick challenge.

Until that time comes… Good luck in writing!

K.M WEILAND’S TEMPLATE TO CREATE THE BACKBONE OF A STORY USING THEME (4TH PART).

Okay! so now it’s time to build the plot of our story, are you ready?

So far we have two main elements that are going to help us in this endeavor. The first one is the thread of information that we managed to articulate at the end of our previous endeavor, you remember?

We managed to build our protagonist as a skillful and selfless person, who has fear of change, and so prefers not to attempt to change the destiny of things.

The second element is our antagonistic force, which as I remember was something like this;

A prison, ruled by a person who considers criminals to be less than ordinary men, not subject to the same rights or respect, especially from the prison guards he commands.

We can already see the conflict building in these two sentences, a selfless person against another who considers prisoners to be less than ordinary men.

As the two of them collide it is guaranteed that sparks are going to fly. Just think about it, our protagonist is bound to consider everyone as his equal, while the antagonist will surely engage others from a superior position, right?

Now, according to K. M. Weiland’s Theme template, our next step would be to define the first act, using the manifestation of the big lie.

Do we even remember the big lie?

Hope makes people suffer and waste their lives.

Okay, Weiland tells us that, at the beginning of the story, the big lie will manifest in a specific message that is either urging the protagonist toward the want (in our case; to escape from prison) and/or is presenting a direct obstacle to his ability to move towards the need and/or want.

Let’s take the first scenario. A message urging the protagonist toward the want. Now, we had previously talked about “to escape from prison” being the concrete want, fueled by a more abstract take on it, remember?

That more abstract idea for a want was something like this:

To find meaning in life.

Now, considering that our big lie is “hope makes people suffer and waste their lives“, which message emerging from it could push a skillful and selfless person, who has fear of change, and so prefers not to attempt to change the destiny of things, towards finding meaning in life by escaping from prison?

Let’s start by saying that, in our story, the destiny of things can be summarized as suffering and the waste of life through the false hope of leaving prison, right?

This means that the setting of our story is a prison in which a warden (main antagonist), a person who considers prisoners as livestock, has some sort of sick game or contest which involves the false hope of leaving, of achieving freedom.

This contest gives prisoners the manifestation of the big lie, a sort of sick version of hope that makes them suffer and waste their lives to entertain people and make the warden a rich person.

And I know, I know. This plot sounds a bit cliché. But before you go judging this freestyle version of plotting a movie idea, let me remind you that plot templates are often similar as structure and goal-driven narratives go, yet is in the execution where we will often find originality.

So, let’s try to add some of that sought-after originality, okay?

Our plot template would be something like this:

A skillful and selfless person, who has fear of change, and so prefers not to attempt to change the destiny of things, gets trapped inside a prison where the warden, a person who considers prisoners as livestock, has some sort of sick game or contest which involves the false hope of leaving, of achieving freedom.

In essence, what we’re saying is that our protagonist is a person who is inclined to accept his destiny because it allows him not to experience the fear that defines him, and that he gets trapped inside a prison in which staying or accepting his destiny will only get him killed, because destiny inside this prison is to participate in a contest where prisoners compete in such a way that they suffer and risk their lives, driven by false hope of winning the possibility of escaping from this place, just to entertain a lot of people and make the mayor richer and more powerful.

Now, to face such a challenge, many prisoners would opt for fighting by themselves, adopting an individualistic approach to the matter, kinda like the antagonist’s position, remember?

“Our protagonist is bound to consider everyone as his equal, while the antagonist will surely engage others from a superior position”.

So, we already know that, to win this battle, the protagonist is going to have to break this false belief expressed in the big lie, that hope makes you suffer and gets you killed, which is what happens when you participate in the challenge and it’s also the antagonistic approach, which permeates in all of the prisoners who fight by themselves.

No, no. The protagonist will face the issue with his own version of hope, which comes from his selflessness. He will aid others instead of hurting them, he will seek help instead of stabbing someone in the back, he will build a new movement, a new way of thinking, a new hope.

Okay, so with all these elements in our plate:

  • A prison setting.
  • A selfless character inspiring new hope by achieving team work amongst criminals.
  • An antagonist who considers prisoners as inferiors and pins them against each other to profit.
  • A contest/challenge in which prisoners compete with the false hope of achieving freedom.

Here comes the originality.

Let’s say that the prison setting is in fact some sort of reality show in which the participants live all together in a small town, even with their families. Problem is, they can’t escape from this town, trying so would probably mean being shot in the head.

Let’s also say that, to maintain their families, these criminals have to participate in a series of challenges, either to win or to survive. But here’s the twist, if they fail, they have the opportunity to sacrifice one of their family members to keep participating, but if the participant gets killed every member of the family dies too.

Here’s the catch, the one participant who wins all of the contests can choose to become the new warden, and by doing so, they can choose the new rules of engagement, they can even choose to free all the prisoners.

So yes… the antagonist is a former winner!!!

I think we’re ready to try a logline now, what do you say?

It would be something like this:

A selfless and skillful person gets trapped in a prison town, where he will have to unite all prisoners to survive a sick challenge, involving the sacrifice of family members, to win his and everyone’s freedom.

That’s it for today, next time we’ll continue writing this story, which I have to say it’s becoming a true epic! We already have the introduction of the big lie, now we have to dive into the next part of K.M. Weiland’s template, the small introduction of the truth, which we already hinted at!

Until that time comes, good luck in writing!

K.M WEILAND’S TEMPLATE TO CREATE THE BACKBONE OF A STORY USING THEME (3rD PART).

And so… here we are. And don’t be surprise by the ominous feeling we’re getting here, cause this time we’re diving deep into character development, probably the most painful and self reflecting part of the writing journey. Yes, it’s time to tackle the personal aspect of our story, about our protagonist and by consequence, of any other character in our roster.

It is time to talk about the Ghost/Wound.

But before going to crazytown, let’s make a quick recap of all the progress we’ve made so far, shall we?

First, we have our:

Big truth and character-specific truth:

If generally “Hope gives people a reason to live”, then specifically, “Hope can help you survive and be free from injustice”.

And…

Big lie and character-specific lie:

If generally “Hope makes people suffer and waste their lives”, then specifically, “Hope can make you suffer and get you killed”.

Then, we chose escape from prison as the thing the character wants, and, “to understand that his actions not only reignited hope inside him but also gave hope to others, shifting the balance of injustice inside prison” as the thing the character needs.

Now, to understand how a proper Ghost/Wound works, and by that I mean it works for our story, we have to think for a moment about the thing the character needs. If we have a character that has to learn that “his actions can reignite hope for him and also give hope to others” we’re also talking about a character that has lost hope in the first place, but also, a character that can inspire others.

Taking these two ideas we can say that our character has something special about him, something that can inspire others, but it seems that they can’t see this at the start point, given that they have to learn this truth as part of the story objective. So, let’s ask ourselves, which type of character has no hope because they can’t see who they really are. Maybe this character can accomplish amazing feats but fails to see value in himself, so much that they need to be put in a catastrophic situation to learn their true value.

Here’s where the Ghost makes its appearance.

Let’s define this value first, right? so we can talk about the same thing moving forward.

The Ghost is a motivating event in your character’s past that represents the moment and reason the lie first took root in their life. The lie you say?

Hope can make you suffer and get you killed.

What we’re saying here is that something happened in the character’s past that makes them believe that experiencing hope is a dangerous thing, so much that in having hope they think suffering and death are inevitable.

Let’s say that, as a young boy, the protagonist lived in a war zone, where his mother takes the hopeful decision to stay at home, while all the other families fled because she had the hope that her husband would return to them as promised and couldn’t leave him behind, because of hope. And so, father never arrived, by enemy soldiers did, effectively killing her and the protagonist’s sisters.

From this point forward, our protagonist holds the belief that experiencing hope will inevitably lead to suffering and to the possibility of being killed.

Now, this Ghost from our protagonist’s past has produced a Wound on him, and wounds need to heal. Before you go on asking how can a wound heal, and I tell you right now, the answer is right there in the proposition, let’s talk a bit about it.

So, What’s this Wound thing exactly?

A wound is an aftermath of experiencing the ghost, it is often expressed through some fear that the character tries to avoid at all cost. Because of the traumatic nature of this experience, the wound acts like a defensive mechanism that prevents the character from being hurt again, but it also prevents them to overcome the experience and have a better life, beyond fear.

It is expressed as a personality trait (or a group of them) that protects the character from being harmed and maintains some control over their experience. At the same time, the wound makes the character see reality from a distorted point of view that prevents them from seeing the truth.

In our protagonist’s case, the wound of having lost their family over hope, their belief that experiencing it can lead to suffering and death, can be summarized in “fear of change“. What do I mean by that, I mean that the character will prefer to accept things as they come, building a comfortable and protected life, free of risk or gamble, to actually avoid the need of experiencing hope for better things. As long as the character stays “imprisoned” in his own lack of hope, they will at least not experience any suffering and will avoid death.

Now, what type of character traits can encompass a character that’s experiencing fear of change?

  • They will choose to not get involved emotionally.
  • They will not have an opinion on things that can cause backlash.
  • They will prefer enclosure.
  • They will not be as open as to trust others.
  • Etc.

Are you getting the idea? Okay, as you can see, a ghost from the past produces a wound that the character needs to overcome to have a proper life. Until then, they will keep suffering on their own accord, which summing up an external conflict and goals to achieve can make up a real recipe for disaster.

But, do not despair yet, because not everything is lost for our protagonist. Remember that at one point we talked about something special about the character? because the truth is that our protagonist can inspire others, to give them hope at the same time they discover it for themselves.

Now we’re talking about the Basic Action, which is also thought about as the “character’s weapon“, an ability or set of personality traits that have a positive impact and that can help them achieve their goal towards the truth.

And you know what’s the most incredible part of this Basic Action/Weapon?

Most of the time, the protagonist has it but, because of the Ghost/Wound/Lie situation, they can’t see it in themselves. That’s why they need to go through the ordeal that the story proposes, to understand their true value, to change the perception they have about themselves.

In our case, what could be the Basic Action of our protagonist?

Maybe this lack of hope leads them to be selfless, maybe even brave or painfully honest. Maybe lack of hope gives them a clear perspective on human affairs, the information they could use to achieve things. Maybe a life without hope has to lead them to be skillful not to rely on others.

To keep our story going, let’s say our protagonist is a skillful and selfless person, who has fear of change and so prefers not to attempt to change the destiny of things.

And that’s it for today! Next time we’ll use all of the information we have so far to start building our plot.

Until then, good luck in writing!