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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Construct With Memory

In the film, John Carter, a Colonel who is familiar with Carter’s military prowess arrests him in order to get his assistance fighting the Apache. Carter not only outright refuses to join in the battle but repeatedly escapes. The Colonel is bewildered by the contrast between the description of the heroic man he has before him and the actual man.

This broken-in-spirit John Carter is now antagonist against warfare. Yet, when the situation becomes critical for the Colonel, Carter’s instincts overtake his reluctance and he saves him. He repeats the same scenario once on Mars, actively resisting interference until his heart engages. The memory of who he really is becomes stronger than the person he is attempting to be now.

For this plot arc it is obviously a positive impulse that the instinct enables John Carter to be restored to his real self. However, instinct can react the other way as well when characters, or ourselves, have broken away from old detrimental habits and then they find ourselves in a familiar situation where they revert.

In John Carter’s case though it is the memory of his loss that clouds his instincts and interferes with the memory of what he believes and the actions he is willing to take. In fighting against a return to a negative lifestyle characters can choose the memory of what their life has become now to resist the lapse into old behaviors.

Instinct as memory can become a powerful instrument for both good and evil in characterization and plot development.

Journal Prompt:

1.     Choose a key instinct from your character’s personality and put him in a situation that creates a negative outcome. Then choose another outcome that is positive. How does he emotionally react before and after each occurrence?

2.     List ways either can become plot points for conflict or restoration.

Share: Which instinct did you use and which outcome worked best?

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