Helping A Screenwriter Understand The Inner & Outer Journey Of A Character by Michael Hauge

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Film Courage: Can you talk about how the outer
journey and the inner journey combine within the 6 stages of plot structure? Michael Hauge: Yes. I mean they definitely intertwine. As I said earlier, you can have a story that
is all outer journey, it’s just plot, it’s the character doing whatever physically is
needed to achieve that visible goal and there is enough conflict from the invisible obstacles,
from nature and other characters that we don’t need to go deeper in to the character. But if you choose as a writer to go to that
inner journey level, to explore the inner conflict within the hero, to see the tug–of–war
between identity and essence of living a false persona and living a character’s truth. And living in a fearful state, but protected
state versus living courageously. If you want to explore that, then they will
intertwine because (as I said) the rule is the closer they get to achieving, the more
they have to be moving toward their essence. It’s called an arc because it arcs over
the whole story. And every time their fear takes over they
have to lose ground so to speak. It keeps them from achieving the goal. So in a love story this is easy to see because
if the characters are in conflict – the hero and what I call the romance character,
the love interest. If they are arguing, it means one of them
is in his or her identity. And it’s stopping them from getting more
intimate. If they are both in their essence they’re
going to grow closer and become more intimate. That is why the midpoint, the point of no
return represents a bigger commitment is often the first time they make love because it is
physical intimacy that matches the emotional intimacy they have from opening up and showing
each other their essence, showing each other their truth. So that arc for the hero is going to correspond
to the hero getting closer and closer to the outer motivation. But there is another cool way that they can
intertwine or another good tool that you can use as a screenwriter, or a novelist or filmmaker
of any kind, even actor because this will inform your performance and that is to look
at some other key characters in the story. One is the character I term the Reflection. The Reflection is my term for the Sidekick. For the character who is most closely aligned
with the hero, so it might be a best friend, it might be a co-worker, it might be a mentor
like Mr. Miyagi in THE KARATE KID or if it’s the new KARATE KID, Mr. Han. or Obi-Wan. Anyone who is there to support the hero, who
is aligned with the hero at the beginning of the story. So in GRAVITY for example, Ryan, the Sandra
Bullock character, is the hero of that movie but is closely aligned with and supported
by the George Clooney character. Now on the visible journey level, on the plot
level, that reflection character is reflection because their job is to help the hero achieve
her visible goal. So in GRAVITY, what is her visible goal? To get back to earth. Who is the character who is going to help
her do that more than anyone, it’s George Clooney’s character. (I wish I could remember that character’s
name – but I don’t.) O.k. But once you have that character functioning
as a reflection on the outer journey, now you can see how you use them on the inner
journey level. And on the inner journey level, the reflection
is the character who reveals the hero’s essence to the hero. Or another way to say it is, the reflection
is the character that holds the hero’s feet to the fire and any time they are retreating
into their identity, the reflection will say “What are you doing? This isn’t you? You should be going after that person” or
“You can’t give up!” There are numerous moments in GRAVITY where
the George Clooney character (first as a real person and then as a figment of her imagination)
says “You don’t want to give up. I know why you want to give up. It’s terrible, it’s terrifying but if
you can find the courage and you can put one foot in front of the other and keep living
your life, that’s the way you want to be.” And that is a typical scene or situation for
a reflection character. Donkey does that for Shrek. The Vince Vaughn character in WEDDING CRASHERS
does it for Owen Wilson’s character. Owen Wilson has retreated once they’ve broke
up into his identity and now they are crashing funerals, as well as weddings. And Vince Vaughn says “Why are you doing
this? You’ve got to go after her. She’s going to get married. She’s marrying the wrong guy. You love her!” And so that reflection character can intertwine
on the inner journey because they are sort of pushing the hero toward their essence. The other character that also becomes the
valuable tool if you’re writing a love story which is a great genre, it’s a great tool
when you want to explore the inner life of the character to add a love story to your
plot whatever the genre is…it’s what I call the Romance character, the Love Interest. On the visible goal level, if it’s a love
story, the hero’s visible goal has to include winning the love of that other character. They want to end up in a committed relationship
with that person. They may do it reluctantly, they may be blind
to it at first, but eventually by the mid-point anyway, they are going to declare their love
in some way and they are going to actively pursue that person romantically. But on the inner journey level, the way that
works is the love interest is the reward for the hero having found the courage to be in
his essence. So again, you can’t win true love. You can’t win the love of another character
if you’re living a false life, you have to be in your essence. And so with love stories, the way it works
is (if you’re writing a love story), to avoid the mistake of having these two people
be together just because you want them to be for no logical reason other than they’re
both good looking and they’re co-stars of the movie. If you wanted to really make logical sense
and have your audience respond to it emotionally, then the romance character is the character
that sees beneath the hero’s identity and they connect at the level of essence. And so, any time you are in conflict, their
identity is coming into play, when they actually connect they are at the level of essence. And nobody else that the hero has actually
fallen for, or is involved with or is in love with at the beginning of the movie, none of
them see the hero’s essence, only the true love can do that. And so now, that level of plot is also intertwined
with the inner journey as well. Film Courage: Can we talk about a friend who
then becomes an enemy or has been an enemy all along? And vice versa, someone who we thought was
an enemy (an opponent) but was actually more benevolent than we imagined in the beginning
of the movie? Michael Hauge: Because I use these terms and
this jargon I’ve created like, Hero, Nemesis (The Villain or Opponent), Romance, Reflection. Because I use those terms, often that question
will come up. Well what if that character starts out as
a Reflection (a Best Friend) and actually turns out to be the Killer and then become
the Nemesis? I recommend a writer not look at it that way. I recommend that you use the terms that you
would apply at the end of Act One. How is this character established at the beginning
act of your script? So if this is the character that is the best
friend but is aligned with the hero, than they remain the Reflection throughout the
movie. They just become a Reflection who turns out
to be a Bad Guy or a Killer or a Murderer or a Spy or whatever it turns out that they
are. And if a character starts out to be a Friend,
but then this is about the two of them falling in love and we know that is where it’s headed
then it’s the romance character from the get go and there might be another best friend
to be a reflection and so on. The Nemesis who turns out to be a Good Guy,
that can happen as well. But it’s done slightly differently. It’s not so much that the Nemesis has been
hiding the fact that he is a Good Guy as much as he has a change of heart and realizes I
am going after the wrong thing. I have to help the hero. Tommy Lee Jones in THE FUGITIVE would be that
kind of Nemesis. He’s in opposition to the hero but finally
he reaches a point where he realizes I’m going after the wrong guy and I’ve got to
help him find the truth. So I don’t think it’s wise to think about
characters changing categories because it just becomes too complicated and my goal (among
many others) is to make the process as simple as possible. Screenwriting is tough enough without making
it more complicated than it is. So I like to use these terms for introducing
characters and how they are going to function overall and not start switching categories. QUESTION: Any thoughts you can add on a character’s
inner and outer journey?

 

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