The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, November 06, 2005


So…over the last ten days or so, we’ve explored the seven levels of characterization: survival, sex, power, love, communication, intellect, and spirit.  Sure can find other aspects, but by tying them into these seven, a writer can create amazingly complicated and realistic characters.  And by examining the impact of damage or progress in each of these arenas on yourself, you can accelerate your understanding of life and humanity vastly.

Where to start?  Well, let’s start with the most basic aspects possible, the simplest model that holds any water at all: Body, Mind/career, and Spirit/emotion.  You can’t get more basic than these three, and if you balance and understand them, you open the door to understanding the Seven.

Body: What are your theories about what a human being’s body means?  Does a person’s physical condition say anything about them?  What?  Why, or why not?  Anyone who has followed the Lifewriting™ theories about this know that my attitude is that our bodies say a huge amount about us.  Our bodies should be able to evade predators, or catch prey.  They should show our secondary sexual characteristics to best advantage. We should have plenty of energy.  If you look at your body in the mirror, you should feel attracted to it.  If any of these are NOT true, trust me, you’ve been damaged, and if you’re honest with yourself, have a clear roadmap to the work you must do to heal and become a balanced human being. 

Mind:  Is your mind sharp and clear?  Do you have well defined WRITTEN goals?  What were your childhood dreams?  To what degree have you achieved them?  Or have you created new, better dreams?  Or have you compromised, sold yourself out?  Are you educated and/or employed to your actual level of capacity?  Why, or why not?  Do you understand the world around you, or do you live in a constant state of confusion, wondering why life seems to be passing you by?  In other words, do you have an accurate map of reality, and can you read and navigate it with aplomb?

Spirit:  Are you easily depressed?  Do you have healthy relationships?  Can you satisfy your sexual and emotional needs ethically?  Do you hold anger toward the people or social institutions that have wronged you?  Do you meditate, or at least have some reliable way of dealing with stress in your life?  Are you pathologically afraid of death or abandonment or aging?  Do you have a sense of the way the universe fits together as a whole—even if you don’t have a clear picture of it, or a belief in a specific deity?

Imbalance in any of these three arenas will cause you more trouble than I can possibly say in this short note. Look at the people around you HONESTLY, and see what damage in any one of them, or threats to balance in any one of them, creates in their lives.  Virtually any story you could ever write deals with someone attempting to increase the health or clarity of one or another of these arenas.  If you would be an artist, or an autonomous human being, you must address these questions with courage.

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