Characters are the cornerstone of screenwriting. They drive the action and illustrate the theme of your story in feature films and television productions.
The decisions that drive character actions are driven by their belief systems. However, there are more subtle energies that define characters. Ever heard the expressions that someone has positive or negative energy, good vibrations, bad juju, being in sync or not on the same wavelength? Knowledge of these expressions really enriches the characters in your film script.
Abraham-Hicks has a more ethereal view of the human energies that motivate behavior. Very briefly, these teachings define humans as having a Source, or a vibrational core. All vibrations flow in a positive energy stream. There are no negative vibrations. We only affect their flow by either allowing or resisting them.
These concepts relate to the laws of attraction. We attract joy by focusing on what we desire, and resist it by focusing on what we don’t. Take a moment to think about this. Think about your characters’ emotional states. What are they pursuing and what are they avoiding? This is the emotional character arc rather than their surface goal that is an essential component of screenwriting.
We experience an emotional discord when the external vibrational patterns are misaligned to our Source. This means that we react negatively when our desires are not met.
We operate on a scale of 22 emotional set points ranging from positive to negative, as follows:
- Joy/ Knowledge/ Empowerment/ Freedom/ Love/ Appreciation
- Enthusiasm/ Eagerness/ Happiness
- Positive Expectation/ Belief
- Frustration/ Irritation/ Impatience
- Hatred/ Rage
- Insecurity/ Guilt/ Unworthiness
- Fear/ Grief/ Depression/ Despair/ Powerlessness
We all strive to move to the highest set point possible. How does all this relate to creating characters in your screenplay? We generate tension and interest in a scene by inviting our audience to travel with our characters through as many of these emotional set points as possible. Otherwise known as an emotional roller coaster or journey. Make’ em laugh. Make ’em cry. And everything in between. That makes a great film.
If the basic template of of any story can be reduced to a hero battling a problem and its resultant emotional imbalance until a resolution is reached, we can essentially say that a their goal is to move to a higher emotional set point i.e from fear to joy.
Donnie Darko (2001) reduced our emotional states to a continuum of either fear or love. Some psychologists reduce basic emotions to five, while others to eight. I strongly recommend studying the following link summarizing basic emotions. Regardless of which theory you chose, the same types of emotions arise in each one. It is also of interest that joy and fear are considered hard-wired emotions, while surprise, disgust and acceptance are considered to arise from biological or learned responses.
As screenwriters, it isn’t essential to delve too deeply into the psychology of emotion, but rather understand the different types in terms of character development.
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