Adapted from Writers Workshop Script Doctor
Copyright © 1994, 1996, 1997, Dorian Scott Cole
In most movies the main characters, or characters directly impacted by the main characters, will go through a process of change. They encounter a problem. Overcoming the problem requires some change on their part. They often recognize something about themselves and find a way to conquer it. If you don't know anything about change in human behavior, it is difficult to paint a realistic picture of it. People will read your script and say it lacks credibility or the people act out of character. So the following paragraphs are about the process of change.
Do people want to change? Largely no. People are the sum total of their experience, their experience has shaped their attitude, and they are quite comfortable with their attitude and being what they are. The corporate raider believes he is making industry stronger, benefiting many people - he is comfortable with himself. The young single parent on welfare in the inner city believes the father has no opportunity, men can't support a family and she must live on society - she is comfortable with herself. The young man with an attitude about authority believes he should be independent and no one should make him do what he doesn't want to - he is a law to himself and very comfortable with himself. If someone or something asks these people to change, they dig in their heels and stubbornly refuse. Change comes very slowly, sometimes painfully, over long periods of time, unless something comes along to hasten it.
There are exceptions. Some prescribe to a philosophy that promotes growth in a positive way, and these people are about changing. Hooray for them. You can meet them at the self-help bookstand. In reality, most of us want to think highly of ourselves and try to improve ourselves to some extent. It's the things others want to change about us which are usually taboo.
I have always tried to be a person who can be a catalyst of change for people (and reconciliation), either to help them or inform them. Understanding motivation has been a twenty year pursuit of mine. I was pastor of a church (informative and persuasive motivation), an engineer (pragmatic motivater), sales (informative, persuasive), a youth counselor in an alternative to jail program (crisis counseling and outreach motivation), a counselor (educated in psychology and religious studies), and a district manager (motivating people in distant locations to perform and to grow in a career, informative, persuasive), husband and father of three (my biggest challenge), speaker to writers (informative).
All of these required me to probe for obstacles to action. At this point I know a lot more about what doesn't motivate people than what does. Motivation is internal, and there is very little one person can do to motivate another. People usually don't do things or change until they are ready. What are the exceptions? Someone sweeps them off their feet with some charismatic response and becomes an instrument of change. They enter a crisis. Someone creates a crisis for them. Some days, as a manager or parent, I created crisis for others when other methods didnít work.
What is necessary to cause people to change? The most essential ingredient is that they have to want to change. If they don't want to, then you can't love them enough to change them, you can't talk to them enough, you can't counsel them enough, often not even religious persuasion is enough. They won't change. If I read a script where one person talks to another about their behavior and the person decides to change, I'm thinking, "This writer is very naive." People are what they are because of their experiences and because of opinions which they have accepted as their own. Those things are like concrete in the soul and they don't change until the person's experience changes them. A pleasant conversation does nothing.
I used to think that all we had to do to change bigotry and prejudice and political squabbles was to educate people. If they just knew the right things, they wouldn't be that way. What a laugh! Here is how it really works. People's behavior comes from their attitude. Their attitude has two major components. What they know. What they feel. How they feel about something often has nothing to do with what they know about it. And the emotional component is overwhelming for most people. If a weak elderly woman knows in her head that most young people are kind, just like her, but during the last four days she was kicked by four young people, her emotions tell her to avoid young people. When school gets out, she'll be hiding in her closet.
If a teen's head tells him that a roller coaster is safe and fun, but he had a bad fall from one when he was a kid, his emotions will prevent him from getting on. If a politician knows that most people from Orb are OK, but in the last year three of them have done him dirty, he's going to be very wary of people from Orb. If a Hollywood agent knows that most new writers have realistic expectations, but in the last two years he has been in legal squabbles with two and he has never had success with any, his emotions will prevent him from taking new scripts. You really can't change people's behavior by talking to them. You have to change their emotions.
How do emotions get changed? Most often by suffering. When people burn their finger, they learn not to touch the stove. The ancients recognized this in the saying, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Suffering is a primary motivater. For example, a foul temper loses a friend, then a girl friend, then a job, then ruins a marriage. The suffering gets worse until the person decides he wants to change. In a movie, suffering is the main thing the antagonist creates. He makes the protagonist suffer more and more until the protagonist has had enough of it and decides to change things. As the fight begins, the good guy decides what he wants and that he's going to fight for it. Act Two begins. Suffering - tension - increases through Act Two until suffering is at its greatest and the good guy finds a way to triumph.
Suffering in real life follows a curve like the alcoholics curve. The curve is U shaped with the bottom being the critical low point - as bad as it can get. An alcoholic will begin with drinking occasionally. After a while he drinks to cope. Then the drinking starts to cause problems. Most won't address the alcoholism at this point. As he goes farther down that curve, he loses more and more, including family, job, friends, home - everything. At the bottom, he may lose his life. When he has lost everything, he may decide it is ruining him and begin to take control of his life and slowly work his way back up. (It usually takes help.) Two things can intervene in that curve. Family and friends may create a crisis and persuade him to join an organization like AA. Or there may have been enough crisis to get his attention before he reaches bottom.
I wish the world was a more positive place, but unfortunately suffering takes precedence over pleasure. Despite what people think they want, they won't have it any other way, they must suffer. Ask a person if they want to suffer, the answer is an automatic, "NO!" Yet the very behaviors we won't change are the ones that bring our suffering. So we're trapped.
Fortunately good things come along to motivate us. Affection is a great one. One person falls head over heels in love and will climb the tallest mountain for the other. Money and power - things that can bring pleasant things to us - are other strong motivaters. People will change their mind about a lot of things for love, money and power. They may hate the cold and live in a warm climate to escape it, but they'll be out there climbing that icy mountain to get one of those three.
Another thing that leads to change in people is a crisis. A man may smoke cigars year after year and put up with a minor cough. But when he sees a discolored spot on his tongue, he may think he has cancer. The threat of cancer is a crisis - a major emotional trauma. This may cause him to consider what he is doing to himself in earnest and he may give up cigars, even though the physician's report later says he doesn't have it.
The guy with the foul temper may live with telling off people around him and losing friends for several years. But when his girl friend leaves him, that is a major emotional trauma. A crisis. It may be enough to make him want to change. The janitor who pilfered light bulbs and other supplies from his employer for years, thinking it is justified, suddenly steps over the line and takes home a thousand dollar TV, which are stacked in enormous piles around the warehouse. The police are called and he is caught. A crisis.
Some people are forced to change. For example, Johnny doesn't think much of managers, then his employer tells him to take a manager's job or be laid off. Johnny takes the manager's job and two months later he can't be parted from it. Best job in the world. It works like this: When people do what they think is wrong or not for them, their minds struggle to cope with it (cognitive dissonance). They are forced to do it, so their mind has to justify it. After a short period of time, they have adjusted and it is often positive.
It sometimes backfires. They disagree with what they are doing and take it out some other way, as in hating the people who made them take the damn manager's job. Sooner or later they are going to get them, and in the meantime they are going to be uncooperative and sabotage the business.
Another example of people being forced to change has to do with religion. Religious motivation is one of the most powerful motivations. The vilest person can "get religion" and completely change his behavior, becoming one of the nicest people. Strong motivation can also be seen in the fanatic. The more fanatical the person, the more likely he can be prompted to strong action. But is the person a fanatic or a zealot? Put that same person in an environment where his material needs are met or exceeded, around people who live in harmony, and let him adjust for a few years - will he remain as motivated as he was?
The zealot is unlikely to change because his motives are purely religious. But for the fanatic, there is nothing to fight over, no symbol of being aggrieved, and the person may grow very moderate or even liberal in his beliefs. What was the motivation? The emotional content says it was about symbols of aggrievement, not religion.
The fanatic's beliefs are mollified when he adjusts to a new environment. That doesn't mean that the person's faith was superficial. Spiritual things are a form that can be expressed with a variety of religious contents. Content and emphasis depend on a person's need. When people have a need, they turn to a variety of things to change the condition, and religion is one. Religion is a very convenient thing because it seems to have the power and authority of God behind it. So religion always appears to be a very strong motivater.
Some people are spiritual by nature, understanding the universe and their role in it in a spiritual way. Others are strongly religious because personal faith, guided by religious doctrine, and supported by a religious community, has made them what they are. And some simply use organized religion as a means for getting what they want. Everyone tends to do a little of each.
What does all this stuff about motivation mean to your screenplay? If you are writing a screenplay and it goes, "Bob is giving up smoking and drinking because his new girl friend, Mary, thinks it is bad for him and she's giving him research articles that say how bad it is, and a counselor is talking to him about how to get through it" - stop. Bob likes smoking and drinking and really doesn't want to quit, and two months after marrying Mary he will start them again and try to get her to join the fun. That's real life.
Now, before you throw away your concept that knowledge or love or counseling can save someone - stop. Think bigger. Under what conditions might those prompt a character to change? To people who are honest with themselves, rational people, knowledge does make them stop and think and they often alter their behavior. To people torn by contradictory motivations working within them, counseling often will help them define a path forward. Sometimes love does save someone - sometimes it is so precious that a person will change almost anything about themselves in order to gain and keep that love, or in response to other's kindness, or even to please the other person. Love can't be ignored, it evokes a response of one kind or another.
Is your character honest with himself? Will some event force him to become honest with himself? Will events throw him farther and farther into dishonesty and greater suffering? What contradictory motives work within him? Will recognizing these through knowledge and counseling help him choose a path that he wants? What kind of obstacles will these contradictory motives present? Is there someone who will stand by him through this process and help him? A wife? A friend? Or is there someone's love that he is reaching for that motivates him to change?
Quick Cues To Character Motivation
Here are some quick cues to character motivation: Love binds people together and makes them want to help each other, and gives some incentive to change - gets them through the tough times - but it doesn't change most people directly. Talking about things brings head knowledge which may help, but it won't change anyone who has deeper reasons for his behavior. Counseling is great for people who are trying to change. But if they don't want to change, all the counselors in the world can't make them.
Get down to the nitty-gritty. Make the character suffer, or make him go after something so positive he can't escape it so he has to change, or give him the steely determination to go after those positive things he wants, or force him to do something so he has to change, or neutralize him by putting him into a different environment so he can change. Or find the valid exception. Even those characters who believe they are rational and think things through, are often blind to their own needs.
The person who marries someone, thinking they are going to change them, is naive. The boss who hires someone and thinks he can make him change is fooling only himself. The teacher who thinks he can motivate students to learn will probably experience a lot of frustration. The social worker who thinks she can change people for the better may become very disillusioned. The Peace Corps worker who thinks he can change culture to eliminate ignorant and counterproductive behavior is often destined to failure. The parent who thinks he can make his child a success may be very disappointed.
In general we don't have the power to change or even motivate other people. Yet many people are successful working with people. Why? Is it because of the force of their personality? Charisma? Some mysterious power? Not usually. They motivate subtly, indirectly, by encouraging, advising, (helping someone define reasons) and prompting - especially if they are respected. Most often it's because they are able to see the obstacles that stand in people's way, and help them find ways to overcome them so they can move in positive directions. By interesting coincidence, this is what movies are often about. Seeing the goal a character needs to reach and seeing the obstacles that stand in the way.
Quitting smoking is a good example. Why does a person stick a foul smelling weed into his mouth, set it on fire, inhale irritating smoke, put up with watery eyes, a cough, nicotine addiction, burned spots, ill health and the threat of cancer? (Some find it calming.) A strong clue is in this fact: most children who smoke have parents who smoke. Beyond that, during teen years, many kids begin smoking like their peers. (I think peer influence is currently the larger influence.) People identify with others who smoke, and they duplicate the behavior. Their personal identity is symbolized by smoking. When you talk to them about quitting, you are talking about terminating who they are - changing their identity.
Look at advertising for smoking: the macho man sitting on a horse puffing away (that actor died of cancer), the independent free thinking woman, the cool animal personification (Turkish tobacco smells like burning camel dung - I even hated it when I smoked), young adults having fun, couples enjoying each other with sexual overtones. Advertising companies know what smoking is about - identification - the same thing most advertising is directed toward.
With that in mind, can anyone expect to stop another person from smoking? No, the behavior of smoking is a symbol of something much deeper. What has to be addressed is changing who the person identifies with. That is an enormous challenge because that involves seeing the basic needs within the individual and understanding his basic identity. Fortunately smoking often ceases to be an identification thing, becoming only a habit (relative habit strength is multiplied: number of incidents by length of time), which can more easily be cured.
Just remember that if a person's behavior doesn't match what they think, it is much easier for him to change his thinking than it is his identity. For example, if someone is part of a subculture that can't read, then illiterate is the preferred way to be even though evidence points to the contrary. This actually happens in some remote areas of some states. Another example, to a military person accustomed to a disciplined life style and constant attention to appearance, the civilians they defend are slovenly and contemptible. You can force someone to this attitude. Put a slovenly young civilian in the military where he is forced to be disciplined, and after a few months he can't stand those slovenly civilians. Whatever a person's identity is, that's what his mind agrees is reality.
How could changing that behavior be handled in a screenplay? Create an emotional obstacle to smoking by demonstrating how foolish people look being so easily manipulated by advertisers. Cause the character to identify with a new group of people who don't smoke, and add pressure to quit. Help the character form a new identification for himself. If he sees himself as the cool, strong, James Bond always in control person, help him form an identity of coolness, being so in control that smoking is not only not necessary, it is a form of weakness; for example, The Fonz on Happy Days. But as you have one character form the arguments, expect the other to argue back vehemently and persuasively, because you are assaulting the idea that he is in control and threatening who he is.
Smoking is one example, but people surround themselves with symbols of their identity. What do guns mean? Strength, power, self sufficiency? The family protector? What drives that identification? A need for respect? A need for power? Identification in a community (hunters, certain religious groups, military types, ranchers). Another example, what do books mean? Identifying with an academic community? A thirst for knowledge? Driven by a need for power and control (knowledge is power)? Fear and a need to hide from action (reading vs. doing)? Curiosity? Self improvement and growth? Fear of change: student becomes career academic?
Most people have some basic motivations and some complex ones. Most will need security, love, acceptance, fulfillment. Many will extend these into greed, power, self actualization, religion or spiritual growth. Their involvement in the community and with life will influence them toward altruism, hate, misuse of power, theft, imprisonment, jealousy, fear created by war or abuse, insecurity and lack of esteem which may lead to control of others for selfish love, or to false esteem which leads to abusive control of others.
In time, peopleís bad traits often get more aberrant and twisted, driving them into complexes that support their way of life. For example, the oppressed person, frustrated because he can't control his life, but who can't confront his oppressor, begins undermining his oppressor's efforts. He finds this satisfying and becomes passive-aggressive so his lack of cooperation continuously thwarts his oppressor's efforts, driving the oppressor out of his mind. Another example, the person who can't stand up to another person's destructive behavior, becomes an enabler by excusing and supporting the other's behavior. When his behavior or complex obviously flaunts reality, he either has a problem or has become neurotic.
The person is rare who doesn't have some very solid anchors. Most people have some sort of religious beliefs. They have some family and friends who are supportive. They have a job, or school, and career goals they are working toward. They have a larger society and government they can depend on and know what to expect from. The person who lacks these things is truly existential and is adrift in life, and will probably soon be shipwrecked.
OK, this is a test. Letís briefly test character motivation. Write out the major influences in the characterís past. Suppose we develop a child from infancy. Her parents put her in reasonably good schools in a reasonably supportive social environment. The parents are nurturing and supportive and "give" her "good" values. They are interested in her life and active in her affairs. They educate her about drugs and the perils of life and let her make her own decisions, letting her take responsibility as she can handle it. They reinforce her for achieving and show her the results of bad behavior. Does she become:
a) A drug user who steals to support her habit, who remains an unmotivated slacker for several years, and who can't form good relationships?
b) A successful professional or skilled worker?
c) Maybe both or neither.
Is she motivated? All the things listed were external - done to her - hoping they would make an important impression. Loading her with information is like piling books on her; these things donít influence her to do anything, except to answer questions, but may influence how she does them.
But if some of the things done to her have accidentally wound her up, now what does she do? Dance around in circles like a wind-up toy until she becomes a burnout. This is similar to negative motivation, it drives a person away in any direction, whereas positive motivation pulls the person in one specific direction. Compare to pushing or pulling a rope. You canít push a rope, it goes in all directions. But pull on it and it follows along nicely. So this girl is all packed with no place to go. What does she need?
The character I described might lack at least four things. First, a sense of social concern which will give her an outward focus instead of solely inward. Being concerned with only yourself is not a psychological problem. Psychology doesn't establish rules about behavior, especially one that says everyone must have a social consciousness. Hedonism is a reflection of values (usually spiritual/intellectual). So her behavior will be for her self only - she won't be motivated to help others. In addition, one other comment about information. If the information took root, because of experience or whatever reason, what questions does the information leave her with? Is she programmed to want more knowledge or experience of a certain type?
How can you correct this? Spiritual values may be accepted by many young people just as they are handed out by their parents and religious institution. But values are often not accepted as their own by young people. The only time they can become their values and influence their behavior is when they accept them as their own, integrated or internalized, which they won't do until they are ready (usually through value testing). At that point, all the good training and examples may make sense. But spiritual values are intellectual values. They may have an emotional component and be carried out through physical actions, experientially confirmed or reinforced, but they are intellectual. (Fortunately most young people accept spiritual values to some extent and go through a process of testing and internalizing through the years, not all at one time.)
Second, the child has no sense of purpose. Purpose gives people a direction to go in. With no purpose, any direction is fine and destructive behavior may be as good as constructive. How do you correct not having a sense of purpose? People are the product of their experiences and when one aspect of life is too far out of balance or incomplete they may not have any sense of purpose, or their sense of purpose may be misguided. Purpose often results from something at hand. Everyone has needs that can be met through doing things.
People want to be loved. To make a contribution - be found valuable to others. To be competent. To feel self-esteem. To be accepted. But when the purpose at hand is not enough, you may not be able to get a response. For example, when a young person canít stay with activities or projects so they donít build any self-esteem, and normal activities donít appeal to them so they look for easy ways to get major glory. Let the character find a way, it keeps them busy. It makes a good character - one who is always searching and never satisfied.
The third problem is the person's set point. Life is relative. All the things that the child received are "taken for granted" because these things seemingly come with life. If they are taken away, she may become hostile and doubt her self worth. Add something to her arsenal, like a husband, and things may remain much the same - this comes with life. But make her want something and earn it, and you have value and motivation - she can appreciate it. If she can't have a baby and has to go through years of struggle to get one, she will have a much greater appreciation for the child. (She'll probably spoil it rotten and it will grow up to be a druggy.)
Fourth, programming. Iím reminded of the robot character, Johnny Five who came to life in Short Circuit shouting, "Iím alive! Input, input!" Without knowledge, life has few directions to pursue. We respond naturally to basic values common to everyone, like love. But knowledge, which is proved valid to us by experience, gives us questions. It opens the mysteries of life to us and gives us a direction to go in to solve them.
Two of the themes most often used for a subplot are sex and love. Most often I see them in screenplays as straightforward attraction, almost mundane, thrown in just to add spice (or pornographic titillation). Sometimes this works. Following is information which should challenge your thinking and hopefully stimulate you into creating more dimensional characters:
Sex is a biological drive that is made subservient as a physiological drive. The compulsion is more mind to genitals than genitals to mind.
On the one hand, the sexual response is anatomically independent. You can give a man a spinal block, so he doesn't feel anything, then stimulate him and evoke thrusting and ejaculation. But on the other hand, the mind can completely override normal sexual instincts and desires. The mind is the body's largest sex organ, and triggers the physical process and directs it. The mind, at both subconscious and conscious levels, decides what will stimulate it to sexual activity and what won't, and when. The mind can completely prevent a person from becoming sexually stimulated by anything for years at a time. Yet we would like to think that sexual desire can blind us into doing things we ordinarily wouldn't. It's a convenient excuse. What the mind wants, the mind gets.
The mind is in complete control. While preventing the one person from having sex for years, the mind may make another person insatiable, and another it will wake up during the night to an orgasm. The typical person can be stimulated by a wide range of stimuli, both mental and physical, which on the surface are difficult to control. It would seem the psyche has a huge appetite for sex.
The mind, when responding sexually, releases (or causes other organs to release) many chemicals, or hormones, into the body. Other experiences may also release some of these same chemicals, heightening the sexual response. Many emotions will heighten the physiological sexual response. Love, fear, loss, pleasure, romance, pride, victory. Why does the mind want sex? Reasons vary: celebration; romantic love; power; guilt; lust/desire/sensuality; release; need for companionship, love or affection - this list is endless. Although oneís sex life may be a key barometer of the health of one's relationship with a partner, people have sex for a large number of reasons.
Strange sexual practices are often shaped by mental processes. Conditioned response, like Pavlov's dog drooling at the sound of a bell because he associates it with food, can make a person associate almost anything with sex, if it has been used for stimulation or in fantasy, no matter how bizarre or distasteful to others. The "sex object" can even be something besides a person. Some people like black negligees, some like white, some pink.... Some are stimulated by nudity, some are unaffected or even put off by it. In some cultures, some body parts are always exposed and are not considered sexual. In others they are highly erotic. Some like thin ankles. Some need vibrators. Some just need to be held.
Subconscious desires often drive sexual stimulation. Subconscious desires, like a feeling of deserving punishment, or a desire to be restrained so that the person can feel he has no choice, or a need to be treated like a dependent, can push the person into acting out sexual fantasies. Things which stimulate the nervous system in other ways, such as danger and forbidden things, or fear of heights, often heighten sexual response.
If a person is sexually active, chances are he will express his problems in a sexual way. Read available literature about sexual problems and their symptoms and you will have better subject matter than just sex scenes to spice up your story.
Writers sometimes ignore the fact that for the typical person, sex is an intimate act that usually results from a relationship. Sex usually doesn't precede the relationship. When it comes before a relationship, what is it saying about your character? That acceptance, or power, or lust, or peer expectations are predominant in his life for some reason?
Love. One of those words everyone uses every day, from "loving a TV program," to "true love," but no one uses it the same. Parents love kids and each other. Siblings sometimes love each other, but usually not until they are twenty-six. We love puppies, and sometimes dogs. Everyone loves babies.... until they start crying. We fall in love and make love, and are encouraged to somehow love our enemies. We are expected to love our neighbors, but not be caught in bed with them. What does it all mean?
Many of the things we say we love, we actually like. To like something is to find it agreeable and pleasing.
Affection is fond devotion. It is probably how we feel about a new pet, or possibly a favorite flower or TV program. People in love often display their affection for each other through little favors or gentle touches.
Infatuation is a stage of love, usually preliminary. It often begins with an attraction to some feature or quality in the other person - sex, companionship, acceptance. During infatuation, the person finds the qualities of the other to be unusually pleasing and satisfying. Qualities that might irritate the life out of another person, are often glossed over. Infatuation can turn to hate overnight and those wonderful qualities irritate the life out of the lover. Infatuation is fickle.
Making love is not sex. Making love is a celebration or communion between two people which usually incorporates sex. Making love is one expression of a relationship. Good sex in a relationship is usually a reflection of the quality of the relationship, not the cause of a good relationship. Sex is not love, whether it "should" be or not. Sex is an expression of some need or emotion, which may range from lust, to power, to love. Need is not love. Needing someone for sex, for comfort, for companionship, for a maid or provider, is not love. It may lead one to love, but it is a self-oriented desire. Selfish love consumes other people if not controlled.
Compassion and sympathy and empathy are not love. These are simply feeling or understanding the emotions of other's within yourself and reacting by identifying with or sharing the feeling. (In modern day we usually say we "feel" compassion, sympathy, or empathy, as reflected in the dictionary definitions. Various words translated compassion from ancient Greek are usually coupled with the verb "have." The meaning of compassion in Biblical literature usually reflects an active quality of love called "mercy.")
The attraction that brings people together - it may be sex, infatuation, need, or love - is often selfish. But most people either strike this out of the definition of love, or define love as "mature love." Mature love is not a self-oriented emotion or motivation. Yet few of us are likely endowed with a mature love. After the infatuation wears off, most of us are in some stage of learning to love - learning not to be selfish.
Love usually has an emotional component accompanying it, and is chiefly expressed through a giving of one's self. It is primarily the willingness and desire to share another person's life, and is especially characterized by extending your efforts for another person, or even making sacrifices for them. For example, to do those things that support a spouse, to nurture a child, to send a young adult through college, to help an older parent.
Love for a spouse is usually the strongest and most intimate of these loves, and the most enduring. But in today's world, sex is bartered for love in extramarital relationships, families are split apart by conflicting needs, and love for spouse has statistically become the least enduring form of love. We are, it seems, confused and selfish people. In my screenplay Cult of Superstition, I cite some enlightening facts about cheating in marriage. Most men who cheat and break up with their wives don't end up with the other woman, who supposedly broke up the marriage. Less than 55% do. The remainder either divorce and find another mate, or they go back to their wife. When they are cheating, they think the other woman is the answer to their problems. But all the cheating is doing is masking the real problem - which is usually dissatisfaction with some part of their life, for which they are erroneously blaming their wives.
Loving your neighbor, the stranger, your enemy, doesn't necessarily have affection attached. This love often begins from a teaching of what should be, and is experientially gained. It sometimes begins by forcing yourself to do what is right, simply because you think you should. If the love is genuine and not forced, there is a feeling of concern and responsibility toward others, and a willingness to act, that leads to doing the right thing for them. For example, helping with other's physical or educational needs. About enemies, I'm not sure if choking the life force out of someone who desperately needs it is the right thing, but sometimes I would like it to be. On the other hand, enemies and people who go through difficult experiences together often become the strongest of friends. Love blossoms from kindness. Often just the actions of taking care of others creates an emotional bond, which leads to more acts of kindness.
Few people will agree on a definition for love. But one thing people do agree on is that people get married for a variety of reasons, and love and family are just two of them. My personal opinion is, you shouldnít get married then enslave someone into a role they donít want, as in cook, maid, sole provider, mechanic, baby sitter, sexual outlet/object. People shouldnít suffocate each other as if they were positive and negative coming together to neutralize each other, or consume each other, or fulfill each other, as if being together was all they were meant to be. I believe people come together in marriage to help each other become what each can become, both individually and synergistically, and to share in all the rewards of togetherness.
Developing Characters using motivation
Following is a character profile from my screenplay, Priest Of Sales, which was developed using principles of motivation.
Gina Characterization, from Priest Of Sales
Gina's Father was a commercial artist. After a faltering career and a long period of no sales, he shot himself while she was away in college. He was a very outgoing person, very open, often very cheerful, loving, but at times coldly calculating. He was irreligious, often mocking organized religion, but had a personal faith that endured. He gave Gina a love of art and graphic images, a fear that the world has no place for you, and hinted at a faith that transcended organized religion.
Gina's Mother teaches school three states away. She started teaching elementary school English and Geography, and now teaches High School French. She forced Gina to attend a Methodist Church, and contrary to the Pastorís wishes, made her attend a Catholic school, because it was the only private school in their small town. Because she taught in public schools and saw their problems, she had little faith them. The Pastor carped about the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church continuously invited her to join them and taught at odds to the Methodists. Ginaís mother gave her a giant question mark about organized religion and a sense it is there to be used.
Gina found the nun's idea of decorum was not to her liking. It was difficult for her to restrain her enthusiasm. So whenever they made her do this or that, like sit down, she was standing up on the inside. This was seen as rebelliousness and they soon made a concerted effort to squash that. Yet one old Nun in her seventies found in her a kindred spirit and taught her how to control herself without suppressing her enthusiasm. This Nun became her close friend, but died when Gina was seventeen.
Gina frequently lived in isolation as a child. She "helped" her father draw pictures and drew her own of imaginary friends. She often played with imaginary friends.
As a youth, she found the churches and schools inviting places because they were a source of friendship, but also loved to spend hours alone reading and learning. She grew to need few close friends. Her father's art, her solitude, her imaginary friends, and her reading were inspirations to her imagination. She developed an active intellectual life.
During adolescence she began to have ecstatic experiences and go into a trance-like state. The family physician examined her for epilepsy or other problems, found none, and labeled her a hysteric - a label she deeply hated. Her Pastor labeled her excitable and harmless, but good for pumping up the others in the youth group because she was always excited and enthusiastic. She never said anything negative and wouldn't let anyone else grumble or complain.
She continued much this way until she was in her last year of high school. At that time, two girls she knew were labeled homosexuals by her congregation and people began to treat them differently. Feeling sorry for them, she became more friendly with them, and found she was labeled a homosexual also, including by her boyfriend. At that point she grew disgusted with the church and dropped her boyfriend.
Entering college, she had her eyes wide open - even a little chip on her shoulder regarding the church. But she soon found the campus community churches more accepting. She was getting active with them until she heard a visiting anthropologist speak. He listed the exploits of the church over the last 2000 years from a not so sympathetic point of view. This poisoned her. Later she took courses in religious history and found the anthropologistís view confirmed.
Gina's experience with men had not been good. She bonded well with her father, but this trust was shaken by his suicide. She dropped her high school boyfriend because she was ashamed of his attitudes and treatment of her. In college she dated, slept with two guys who were crazy for her until they suddenly found someone else. This all left her distrusting of men, who seem to be there, then disappear without warning.
Now like a woman washed overboard at sea, her place in the world left in doubt by her father's suicide, her faith in the organized church shaken by the historical record and the current attitudes, she latched onto Beau Monde Enterprises like it was her only hope. She worked exceptionally hard and quickly moved to National Sales Manager. She hid from the fact that no one works at Beau Monde much past thirty. But it found its way into her dreams at night.
In Beau Monde Enterprises, she buried herself in her work. But as she matured and her sexual desire increased, having no confidence in men, she found herself taking partners in relationships that were open-ended. No commitment. After a relationship with a fellow manager, which was so steamy it rocked the organization, the relationship ended in outright war and with his being fired. Beau Monde published a policy of no intimate contact allowed between employees or customers. Gina decided to transform her sexual energy into other areas.
Gina is an exceptional motivater. She can not only get people up temporarily with her excitement and enthusiasm, she is a good people person with quick insight into their motives and obstacles.
Although Gina shuns organized religion, she has an active spiritual life. She does prayerful meditation and tries to keep herself morally as pure as possible without becoming inhuman. She is satisfied with herself and makes no claim to being acceptable to others. Her ecstatic trances come and go in long cycles. She has never been able to find any real use for them, but they are fun. She sometimes sees visions while in trance, but doesn't know what they mean.
Margo, the company physician, is a friend to Gina. She believes Gina's endorphin levels are exceptionally high. When they are too high, they can block the brainís ability to regulate the hippocampus region of the brain, the seat of emotion, which runs away with itself, and excites the amygdala, which regulates emotion. Thus she gets overexcited and goes into a trance. But Margo believes her brain is normal - everyone has the capacity to release large quantities of endorphins during pain, runnerís high, excitement, emotion, etc. It is Gina's mind that is different. She has an inner joy and excitement others don't have. Others have restricted themselves for one reason or another. Gina hates the very idea of being restricted.
In the following example, the character is formed from scratch.
I need a banker, one with a lot of immaturity, who misuses his position. I'll name him Ray. Ray was born in the town he now works in, so there is a lot of "unfinished business" in Ray's relationships - a lot of people with whom he now has business relationships and grudges from his past.
Ray was raised in a rather genteel family. His father was a banker, his mother very active in a society church. Image was always very important - propriety a very distinguishing virtue. He was never physically active - no sports. The rougher kids didn't much care for him. They either left him alone or gave him a rough time. There were only two other boys his age who were enough like him to associate with. There soon developed an "us against them" mentality, the three against the world. Their interests became the only correct values.
Ray felt powerless. He was a member of a community of three, and they could get very little done by themselves. If they wanted to do anything, they had to participate with the larger community of boys. When they did that, they got picked on. If they didn't fight back, they were called cowards and mocked. They weren't supposed to fight back, but if they did they were soundly trounced and at home they were chastised. Either way they were made to feel small.
Ray listened closely to his father's disclosures to his mother at home about the banking business. He soon learned that money was power. His father made people, he broke them, he built tall buildings. Whatever happened in town, his father had a part in. Ray liked that. Money was power. With money, he could not only control his own destiny, he could control others. So Ray became a banker. Things were going well until he met Norma. Norma he couldn't buy. Norma he couldn't control. But he wanted to in the most desperate way.
What symbols does Ray surround himself with? He wants power, wants control over others, wants revenge. Money and banking are the first symbols. In his home he has a genuine Chinese abacus and a collection of old calculating machines. A small library on banking, debt collection, assertiveness, and power business techniques. He serves on several committees: church staffing, hospital expansion and financing, the Chamber of Commerce Committee on attracting new businesses, and the Mayor's committee on recreation projects. All of the committees have an appealing element of power and control over others. Whether he affects any of the citizens or not, just exercising power over them gives him a sense of satisfaction.
Ray wears a power tie, drives a power car, plays golf with the power people. He is married to a woman who fits the image very nicely. Ray wanted her hand the first time he met her. She was glamorous, sophisticated, and shared his background and interests. Marrying her was like marrying himself. But their relationship became lukewarm.
Norma was as different from Ray's wife as she could get. Hated sophistication. Called a pig a pig, even if it went to the right church. Had no use for power, and had little use for money. Thought committees were foolish. She went to Ray's bank and asked for a loan. The loan officer was out, so Ray took the application. When he told her she would have to make payments on time, she just waved good-bye and left. Returned the next day and asked if the bank was still interested in making her a loan - on her terms, she couldn't always pay on time. Wild, unmanageable - there was no way Ray could get power over this woman. He went on in the next months to offer her everything, hoping to find some way to buy her, but she wasn't for sale. By then she had become an obsession - he would risk anything to have her, control her. She symbolized the limit of his power, something he couldn't stand.
So there is Ray, plus his counter character, plus a conflict, and a germ of a story, all growing out of developing one character by paying attention to motivation.
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