Over the last four months, I’ve always done well asking scene level questions and finding scene level answers. Why does my character refuse to sing in the shower? Because he’s afraid that his girlfriend will hear his constricted voice. Why does he like to mimic other’s accents? Because he believes connection (and thus safety) is found in being alike. Why did he decide to be a linguistics major? Because language will give him the power to manipulate people into doing things for him.

I focused so eagerly on these, that I forgot how humans are complex characters with a whole hierarchy of driving forces. Forces outside this single scene.

Here’s a doodle to help me. image info

What I was doing before was focusing all my efforts on understanding the iceberg. I was blind to the huge flying dragon which was driving my character into them.

I needed to ask questions about the iceberg and about the dragon. How did this iceberg (the scene) affect his dragon (life purpose)? Did the crash even slow his dragon down? Did his dragon tumble out of the air, splashing into the ocean? While in the ocean, did he transform into a sea-serpent and drags him to the depths of the sea? Or was it just a hiccup, the character landed back on his skis, and that continued their path together.

This doodle is another way of framing the problem. From here I can see that his dragon and the scenes can’t exist without the other. It’s a dance between them. Without scenes, the dragon would pull our character directly to the end of his life without a single bump in the road, without creating a single memory that mattered. Without the dragon, the iceberg isn’t a problem, doesn’t affect the character. Our character just stays in place, treading water. A purposeless character, on his couch he spends his life tasting new flavors of potato chips, again without creating a single memory that mattered.

Closing with an example, a list of moments of this dance.

Let’s say our skier’s life purpose is to have a big family, dreams of at least 5 children.

  1. He’s drafted into the army just as he met a woman who he believes to be the love of his life.
  2. The love of his life cheats on him while he’s away. In a rage, he leaves camp to get some air, and while away the camp gets bombed. He’s discharged.
  3. He returns home hateful, and this attitude pushes all women away from him.
  4. Thirty years old and still wanting a big family, he begins to date younger. His family becomes judgemental towards him, so much so that the man cuts off all ties with them in order to continue to pursue a big family.
  5. He meets a lovely girl who also loves kids and wants to get married right now. They go to vegas.
  6. She’s unable to get pregnant. His hatefulness becomes unbearable and he takes it out on his wife. She now lives scare, and now no longer wants to even adopt kids with him. She leaves him.
  7. The sea-serpent, after crashing into the sea, drags him to the depths.