The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The inner and outer man: Matching Character to Plot

One of the secrets to a happy life is the ability to perform, instinctively, as you would if you sat and thought about it for a month.  The only way you can do this is to have the inner and outer worlds in harmony--that you can present yourself honestly and openly as you are at all times.  This takes remarkable courage, and is something that only a few can do with consistency, and no one I've ever met can do 100% of the time.
Nonetheless, it is another core concept of the entire Lifewriting system: the idea that the plot and character are two versions of the same thing.  A character is only revealed through his actions.  The plot mechanics demand proper choice of protagonist.  A mis -match will kill your book.  This may seem a little complicated, but in truth it is quite simple.  Once you begin to see the connection between the character and the plot--or your inner and outer worlds--it becomes possible to start with the most basic idea, and design a basic character to complement it.  A story, after all, must "empty out" our character, reveal everything important about him.  If you start with a character, then step back and ask what situation would best reveal the truth of this person's existence. 
And how does this fit into our own lives?  Very well, I think.  If you view your outer life and circumstances as an externalization of your inner world, it may be uncomfortable, but it also opens the door to massive well as giving you leverage handles on your soul.  Because if you change your external circumstances, you change the internal world.  Associating with more spiritual people will begin the process of personal evolution.  Associating with more physical people will get you started on the path of fitness: you'll absorb their attitudes like butter soaks up smells in a refrigerator.  Associate with wealthy people, and you will start to understand the differences between the way the wealthy think about money, and the way poor people think about it.  Having been around both groups, I PROMISE you that there are huge differences.  Furthermore, (in most cases) if you transplanted a poor man's money attitudes into a rich man, the rich man would immediately begin to fail in life.  Transplant a (self-made) rich man's attitudes into a poor man, and that poor man would stop looking for work--he would begin to search for ways to create wealth, to start a business, to provide services, to protect his money by  spending it on items that appreciate rather than depreciate...and on and on.  This is the way (self made) rich people think.  And those who inherited wealth?  Well, the ones I know were taught from the cradle the way to KEEP their money. How the heck do you think that money lasted to be passed from one generation to the next?
Matching the plot to the character, and making the connection between the inner and outer worlds in your own life, combined, is the single most important building block in the Lifewriting system.

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