Zero Draft Thirty Spring 2016 Challenge: Coming in March!

February 7th, 2016 by

Do you have a story you want to write? A feature length movie screenplay? An original TV pilot? A web series pilot? A novel? Short story? An epic length limerick?

The Zero Draft Thirty Spring 2016 Challenge is for you!

March 1: You type FADE IN / Once upon a time.

March 30: You type FADE OUT / And they all lived happily ever after.

Hold on. I’ve just heard from the proper authorities that our request for an additional day in March has been granted. So technically, you’ve got 31 days, but since we’ve already got all the invitations printed as Zero Draft Thirty, we’ll just keep it at that.

In any event, here is some background on exactly what the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge is. On October 15, 2015, I posted this, inviting people to join me in November as I pounded out a draft of a comedy script. Hundreds of people responded.

So I posted this a few days later. Hundreds more people enlisted in the cause.  We even got a groovy visual to go along with the initiative:

ZD30 Photoshop Front Page

Then every day for 30 days in November, I did a Zero Draft Thirty post with inspirational writing quotes, videos, and handed out a daily Trumbo Award to the person who was deemed worthy for their efforts in supporting our collective cause.

A Facebook group emerged from the process, now with over 600 members. The Challenge was written up in Indiewire. Translated into Spanish. Got its own hashtag on Twitter: #ZD30SCRIPT.

Eventually over 1000 writers joined up for the Challenge. Via Facebook, Twitter, or email, nearly 200 writers let me know they had finished their Zero Drafts.

In processing all of this and noting how I had long promoted the idea that we should aim to write two scripts per year, I thought why not do a spring ZDT Challenge and a fall ZDT Challenge.

Hence the Zero Draft Thirty 2016 Spring Challenge in March.

And you are cordially invited.

Here is a ZDT primer:

Why did you start Zero Draft Thirty?

NaNoWriMo, the write a novel in a month outfit, used to run Script Frenzy, but stopped it in 2012. So why not fill that space here to coincide with our writerly cohorts as they plow through their novels?

Why the name Zero Draft Thirty?

When I posted the initial announcement, I made a point that this is not about writing perfect pages, rather this is about pounding out a first draft. I noted how some writers call that initial iteration of a script a vomit draft. Some a muscle draft. And some a zero draft. GITS reader Orange Pop came up with a great title: Zero Draft Thirty.

Zero Draft = Get The Damn Thing Done Draft!
Thirty = November 1-November 30

You can shorthand it: ZDT or ZD30.

You mentioned Twitter. Does the Challenge have a hashtag?

Indeed it does. As you may know, I am all over Twitter, currently with 34,000 followers (@GoIntoTheStory). So whenever you Tweet anything to do with ZDT, use this hashtag:

#ZD30SCRIPT

What if we want to write a TV pilot or rewrite a script?

Absolutely you can use ZDT for any scripted project. In fact, I’m going to be rewriting – again – the script I wrote in November.

So how do we interact?

Every day at 6PM Eastern / 3PM Pacific, I will do a ZDT post here. In it, I will include an inspirational quote, perhaps some reflections on the quote, add a motivaitonal video, I don’t have that all figured out, I’m just going to feel my way through it. I’m sure you folks will have some ideas or comments which will inspire me to feature something in the daily posts.

The daily posts are cool, but again where’s the interaction part?

As you know, my posts have a comments section. That means you can click Comment and write something on any/all of the ZDT daily posts. Then I will read your comments. Other writers will read your comments. I’ll post comments on your comments. Other writers will post comments on your comments. It will be comments, comments, comments all day, all night. That’s interaction. Of course, we could all choose a resort location, fly there, and interact, but all those mixed drinks with little umbrellas get in the way of writing, so we best stick with comments.

What sort of comments should we make?

Anything you want, but since the whole point of the ZDT Challenge is to motivate each of us to pound out pages and get from FADE IN to FADE OUT, at the very least, I would hope you drop in often — ideally on a daily basis — and let us know how many pages you wrote in the previous 24 hours. But feel free to share your joy… or your pain. If you need a boost, ask for it. If you feel inspired, share your insights.

So the comments are really about creating a supportive environment, right?

You took the words right out of my mouth… fingers… keyboard.

I heard you would do ‘writing scampers’. What’s that about?

Several pro writers including Jane Espenson and John August from time to time invite people via Twitter to join them in 1 hour writing sprints. We came up with writing scampers as a way of embracing the Zero Draft spirit. I’d do them most every day during the Challenge as would others. It’s a great way to feel the support of other writers knowing while you’re in a writing scamper, other Scamperers are with you.

What’s this thing you mentioned about The Trumbo Award?

I had an inspiration: What if each day, I select one writer based on their comments and celebrate their creative effort with this:

HSW Dalton Trumbo Bathtub Award

See that guy? That’s Dalton Trumbo. You can read about him here. He’s a famous screenwriter. But in relation to the ZDT Challenge, it’s all about the bathtub. I mean, dude liked to write in the tub. In fact, there’s even a statue of Trumbo in his home town of Grand Junction, Colorado… in the bathtub!

So obviously we just gotta give out The Trumbo Award every day to the ZDT participant with the best comment. I mean, c’mon, right? It’s a photo. Of a screenwriter. Writing. In a bathtub! Hopefully this hallowed award will come to be known simply as… The Trumbo. As in, “Dude, I posted an awesome comment at GITS, and I totally won The Trumbo!”

Any other ZDT motivational goodies?

Two writers, Chris Neumann and Shelly Artello, created ZD30 calendars for November. Hopefully we can crowdsource a calendar or two for the March challenge. It’s amazing how something as tangible as a calendar can serve as a motivational tool.

So I post script pages here?

NO!!! YOU DO NOT POST SCRIPT PAGES!!! THEY ARE YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY!!! YOU WANT TO PROTECT YOUR CREATIVE OUTPUT!!! AGAIN… DO NOT POST SCRIPT PAGES HERE!!!

WAIT. SORRY. THE VOLUME LEVEL GOT STUCK ON 11. LET ME DIAL… IT… DOWN…

Ah, got it. Just to underscore this point, the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge is all about one thing: Motivating each of us to write a script draft. That’s the focus. Not reviewing script pages. Not networking. Use the Challenge to get from FADE IN to FADE OUT.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please post in comments.

The Zero Draft Thirty 2016 Spring Challenge.

March 1: Type FADE IN / In the Beginning.
March 31: Type FADE OUT / The End.

30 31 days. A first draft of an original story.

It’s cool! It’s crazy! It’s free!

Don’t forget the Zero Draft Thirty Facebook group. A terrific collection of folks who post things every day, even when we’re not in a challenge.

So calling all Zeronauts, Outlaws, Scamperers, and Writing Warriors. Who’s up for pounding out a Zero Draft in March? LET’S DO THIS THING!

The Pomodoro Technique: Write More Efficiently

February 4th, 2016 by

I often get asked how I manage to handle all the stuff I do. I write. I teach, both through Screenwriting Master Class and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I blog. I interview writers. Black List projects. Host the Zero Draft Thirty Facebook group. And oh yeah, handle a billion emails per day.

One thing I do is calendars. Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly. I put items on there I need to take care of – those items are in green. When I complete that task, I turn them blue.

But in terms of focusing my attention, I use the Pomodoro technique.

I’ve written about this before. The basic thing is this: Break up work into 25-35 minute blocks (called ‘pomodoros’). During those blocks, that’s all you do: Work. No email, no Twitter, no Facebook, no nothing. Work.

Then a 5-10 minute break to do whatever you like, followed by another pomodoro.

The reason I bring this up is there are several new timing devices for your computer you can use to enforce your pomodoro. Here are some links:

Focus Booster

Marinara Timer

Moosti

My Tomatoes

PomoDone

Pomodoro Timers

Tomato Timer

Tomighty

For the iPhone or iPad:

Flat Tomato

Pomodoro Keeper

Pomodoro Pro

Pomodoro Time

Pomodoro Timer

50 Best Pomodoro Apps

If you have any suggestions for noteworthy timers, please post in comments.

Also if you have any tips on how you use you pomodoros, I encourage you to share them. I just know that for plowing through my work, this has proved to be a truly helpful technique. And for my writing scampers, I set the time for 1, 2, or more hours. Once I click it on, I’ve trained myself not to do anything else but write or work.

Here’s one writer’s take on the subject: The Pomodoro Technique: How To Write 5,000 Words Every Day.

For more information about the Pomodoro technique, go here.

There is no right way to write

January 20th, 2016 by

It is perhaps the single most fundamental truth about screenwriting in particular and writing in general that I know…

There is no right way to write.

No single formula.
No one system.
No mystical process that guarantees success.

Think about it: Why should there be?

Stories are organic.
Living, breathing, malleable entities.
They are not widgets.

We work on them tirelessly.
We engage them fully with our minds and hearts.
We write… and rewrite… and rewrite some more…

Yet with all that conscious effort and intentionality, there is always some element of magic to the story-crafting process.
And no one has discovered a way to box up that magic into a universal approach for every writer.

Each of us has to find our own way.

We can – and probably should – seek out as much advice as possible.
Wisdom from our writing peers.
Study, analyze, ingest.

But our paths as writers are individual ones.

Whatever he says about his writing…
Whatever she says about her writing…

That can be informative, instructive, even inspirational.

But that is about their path.

Your path?
The process of being a writer is about carving out your own way.

Yes, it would be easier if there was one right way to write.
But then all our stories would be pretty much the same.
Besides whoever said writing was supposed to be easy?

So learn what you can along the way.
Listen to the Masters, actual writers who have successfully created a sustainable path of their own.
Test out a variety of approaches.
Try tips you pick up here and there.
Always be learning.

However at the end of the day…
It’s about you…
Your Creative Self…
And your Stories.

There is no right way to write…

But there is your way.

Go Inward, Go Onward

January 19th, 2016 by

“As you unfold as an artist, just keep on, quietly and earnestly, growing through all that happens to you. You cannot disrupt this process more violently than by looking outside yourself for answers that may only be found by attending to your innermost feeling.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

It’s so easy to get caught up in the external concerns of being a writer. Agents and managers. Contests and competitions. Writing assignments and pitches. What will THEY think? How can I get THEIR attention?

For a screenwriter or TV writer, those are obvious and legitimate points of focus. Ultimately, however, as a CREATIVE, the source of any hope in the pragmatic world of THEM is by “attending to your innermost feeling”.

You. Your Creative Self. That’s where your Unique Voice lies. Each of us brings a LIFETIME of experiences… memories… feelings… passions… distinct to the individual. No one else can duplicate the contours, the ups and downs of our own life course.

Look to that to guide your creative choices. Look WITHIN. If you trust in who you ARE… in who you are BECOMING… and “quietly and earnestly” continue to work at the craft on a daily basis… the external concerns will sort themselves out.

Yes, we have to live in that world of politics and decisions and other personalities, no getting around that.

But never forget the seat of creativity lies within. Make sure you spend time there, dwelling for a while WITHIN yourself.

“Nothing alien happens to us, but only what has long been our own… What we call fate comes not from outside us but from within.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Go inward, go onward.

Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work: Name That Tune!

January 15th, 2016 by

So I posted a DLWTTW the other day suggesting the value of ‘star-casting’:

…that reminded me of “star-casting,” where a writer imagines ‘casts’ certain actors to ‘play’ the roles of various characters in the screenplay they are writing.

In comments, Désirée said:

Stupid advice, I would say. Then I just see the actor in roles she or he already played, and make my character as an already existing one.

As I’m prone to say, “There’s no right way to write.” Some writers may benefit from star-casting. Others… not so much.

So allow me to provide an alternate approach that won’t attach you to a specific actor: Figure out what song the character is.

I read this years ago, where a director on a film project approached all of the main actors and gave them each a song to consider in relation to their search to find their character’s essence.

I was reminded of this recently when I watched The Social Network. I won’t give away the plot, but there is a moment in the movie where the soundtrack kicks in with The Beatles’ song “Baby, You’re A Rich Man.”

The song’s lyrics:

How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
Now that you know who you are
What do you want to be?
And have you travelled very far?
Far as the eye can see.
How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
How often have you been there?
Often enough to know.
What did you see, when you were there?
Nothing that doesn’t show.
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man too.
You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo.
What a thing to do.
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man too.
How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
Tuned to A natural E
Happy to be that way.
Now that you’ve found another key
What are you going to play?
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man,
Baby you’re a rich man too.
You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo.
What a thing to do.
Baby you’re a rich man…

I won’t tell you which character this song refers to in The Social Network, but his name rhymes with Smark Smuckerberg. And coming when it does, the song describes the character – and the moment – perfectly.

As you work on your story and develop your characters, consider what song best describes the emotional truth of who they are. Perhaps they’re “Viva Las Vegas.” Or “Like a Rolling Stone.” Or “Beautiful, Rich, Dirty.” It’s a great way to differentiate your characters and keep in focus their distinctive persona.

This has been another installment of Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work.

[Originally posted October 25, 2010]

Brie Larson on the importance of stories

January 11th, 2016 by

One of the better moments in last night’s Golden Globe Awards was when Brie Larson won Best Actress for her role in the movie Room. I’ve been a fan since her work in Short Term 12 and in reading up on Larson, it’s clear she has a real affection for movies. That was underscored by comments she made to reporters last night. I was so taken by them, I transcribed her words.

“The idea of someone sitting in a theater is very sacred to me. When I was growing up, that’s how I learned about the world. That’s how I learned about different cultures, different generations, different ways of being a woman. I believed every frame of every movie I saw, and as I got older, I realized that with moviemaking, we can trick people into believing anything we want. So I feel a great sense of responsibility with film to tell things as honestly as I can and to be as vulnerable as possible because vulnerability is the strongest thing you can do. I hope that in the films I make, you can be in a theater with twenty people, you’re ultimately alone when you watch it, and you can find new ways to relate to people that you thought you’d never have anything in common with. All these movies I’m doing are actually very old stories. They’re much older than I even have a time frame for. And they’re the stories of our lives, the way that we can process and make sense of this world, and feel like we’re connected to it.

Those last few lines? As writers, we need to remember that every time we sit down to work. They’re the stories of our lives, the way that we can process and make sense of this world, and feel like we’re connected to it.

I hope Brie Larson and James Ponsoldt make a bunch of movies together. Those would be stories worth telling.

Writing Reflections on Carl Jung (5 part series)

January 10th, 2016 by

The more I study Carl Jung, the more I discover his ideas about psychology have a direct relevance to screenwriting (specifically) and stories (generally). This week, a 5 part series focusing on Jung’s notion of individuation, the achievement of one’s self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious. This movement toward a state of what Jung called ‘wholeness’ is an enlightening way to think about what many in the screenwriting trade refer to as the Protagonist Transformation Arc.

Part 1: Are We Related to the Infinite or Not?

Part 2: Make the Unconscious Conscious

Part 3: Make the Darkness Conscious

Part 4: Psychological Rule as ‘Fate’

Part 5: Become Who You Truly Are

Jung was a huge influence on Joseph Campbell. And Campbell was an influence on George Lucas when he was making Star Wars. Indeed Luke Skywalker’s journey reflects Jung’s ideas as detailed in this series. We also see these dynamics in place with Rey’s nascent metamorphosis in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Not surprising. Jung’s philosophy articulates universal dynamics, just as Campbell did with the Hero’s Journey.

I hope you enjoyed the series. I will continue to read, research, and reflect on more of what Jung may have to say about Story. Join me!

Reflections on Carl Jung (Part 5): Become Who You Truly Are

January 8th, 2016 by

The more I study Carl Jung, the more I discover his ideas about psychology have a direct relevance to screenwriting (specifically) and stories (generally). This week, a 5 part series focusing on Jung’s notion of individuation, the achievement of one’s self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious. This movement toward a state of what Jung called ‘wholeness’ is an enlightening way to think about what many in the screenwriting trade refer to as the Protagonist Transformation Arc.

In Part 1, we explored Jung’s theory of individuation which he described as the “psychological process that makes of a human being an ‘individual’… a ‘whole’ man.”

In Part 2, we considered the idea that the unconscious, the stuff of an individual’s Authentic Self, naturally seeks to emerge into the light of consciousness, and how we, as writers, can think of a Protagonist’s transformation as a reflection of this dynamic.

In Part 3, we delved into Jung’s notion that “one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious,” including those negative aspects of the psyche known as the shadow.

In Part 4, looked at Jung’s idea that “whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event,” which led us to the notion of a character’s narrative imperative, their inevitable fate insofar as Plotline intersecting with Themeline, the interweaving between the two – event/response – playing out as Transformation.

We end this series with this from Jung:

Become who you are. Become all that you are. There is still more of you–more to be discovered, forgiven, and loved.

— Carl Jung

If we transplant this idea into the realm of crafting a story, this concept quite sums up the arc — at least if the trajectory is a positive one — of the Protagonist’s transformation journey.

Joseph Campbell says, “The hero has to change.”

Ovid says, “The seeds of change lie within.”

Carl Jung says: “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

Neo in The Matrix: He becomes who he truly is: The One.

Carl Fredericksen in Up: He becomes who he truly is: A man still capable of living and loving.

Annie in Bridesmaids: She becomes who she truly is: An imperfect woman capable of accepting herself and an imperfect man as people worthy of romance and love.

The stuff of the Authentic Self is already there. As we discussed in Part 1, it is being repressed, suppressed, ignored, or avoided. That is the psychological basis of the Protagonist’s beginning state of Disunity.

The Story Universe creates events (Plotline Points) which compel the Protagonist onto, into, and through their adventure.

The events advance the plot, but they also serve as tests and challenges which force the Protagonist to change, even to confront their shadow self as exhibited in opposition figures and dynamics including Nemesis figures.

Along the way, they discover their Old Way of Being is inauthentic and thus has restricted their growth. As those beliefs and behaviors, coping skills and defense mechanisms are Deconstructed, this leads to a process of Reconstruction in which the Protagonist evolves into New Ways of Being, and their True Self emerges.

That’s why in most movies, we see a Protagonist who survives the Final Struggle by embracing all they have learned and using the ‘stuff’ of their Authentic Nature to win the day, and in doing so move toward a state of Unity.

By the way, if you want to know what the primary emotional point of the denouement is, it’s that: To show the Protagonist as a whole being.

When we see the Protagonist having made it through their challenging journey, not only ending up not a better place, but one in which they have become who they truly are… it makes us feel happy. And we all know how Hollywood loves happy endings.

There you have it! Carl Jung: Screenwriting Guru!

One caveat: While most Hollywood movies feature a Protagonist going through a positive metamorphosis, that’s not always true. Sometimes they go through a negative one. Sometimes they refuse to change. Sometimes the Protagonist doesn’t change, but acts as a change agent with others.

But it is almost inevitable that transformation is at work in a movie. What Jung articulates in his take on analytical psychology, as we have seen in this series, is directly relatable to screenwriting and storytelling in general.

Reflections on Carl Jung (Part 4): Psychological Rule as ‘Fate’

January 7th, 2016 by

The more I study Carl Jung, the more I discover his ideas about psychology have a direct relevance to screenwriting (specifically) and stories (generally). This week, a 5 part series focusing on Jung’s notion of individuation, the achievement of one’s self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious. This movement toward a state of what Jung called ‘wholeness’ is an enlightening way to think about what many in the screenwriting trade refer to as the Protagonist Transformation Arc.

In Part 1, we explored Jung’s theory of individuation which he described as the “psychological process that makes of a human being an ‘individual’… a ‘whole’ man.”

In Part 2, we considered the idea that the unconscious, the stuff of an individual’s Authentic Self, naturally seeks to emerge into the light of consciousness, and how we, as writers, can think of a Protagonist’s transformation as a reflection of this dynamic.

In Part 3, we delved into Jung’s notion that “one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious,” including those negative aspects of the psyche known as the shadow.

Today we crack open one of the most important ideas Jung has as it relates to writing:

The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict.

— Aion, CW 9ii

When I first read this, I was stunned because I was immediately struck by how apt a description this is of the Protagonist’s journey. As per Campbell, when the Hero begins a story, they are “just making do.” However as we noted in the last two posts, the unconscious presses to become conscious. From a writing perspective, we can look at that as the Protagonist’s Authentic Nature which has a natural propensity to break through the Old Way of Being and transform the Protagonist into their True Self. If the Protagonist does not deal with their starting state of Disunity… the Story Universe compels them into action.

That first jolt to the Protagonist’s psyche? The Call To Adventure. The Inciting Incident. Whatever we call it, there is a synergistic relationship between the Protagonist’s Inner World and the External World of the plot.

Looked at this way, we can think of the events which transpire in the plot as supporting the Protagonist’s change. After all, Joseph Campbell said the whole point of the Hero’s Journey is transformation.

This assertion by Jung may be the single most important idea when it comes to writing stories which embrace an active interplay between a character’s Internal and External Worlds. The events which transpire, what we as screenwriters call Plot Points, are not arbitrary, rather they provoke and incite the Protagonist to change. What we call Sequences are in effect a reflection of the Protagonist’s transformation, stage by stage.

An event happens.
The character reflects on the Event.
The character responds.

Another event happens.
The character reflects on it
The character responds.

And on and on, each test or challenge in the Plot compelling the Protagonist to change, indeed, steering the very arc of their transformation.

Andy in The Shawshank Redemption: Forced into imprisonment, it’s there Andy rediscovers his own humanity through his selfless acts toward others.

Red in The Shawshank Redemption: Pulled toward cynicism by the soul-sucking effect of ‘institutionalization,’ Red’s intersection with Andy fans Red’s flickering embers of hope, leading him to choose to ‘get busy living’.

Simba in The Lion King: Leaving home in self-imposed exile is Simba’s fate, the only way he can move from an infantile notion of what it means to be king to get in touch with and embrace his True Nature as King.

Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight: The Joker upends Wayne’s attempts to extract himself from his superhero responsibilities, only in the end to become a true, yet unknown hero by saving the legacy of Harvey Dent.

Carl Jung Psychological Rule

The shift which occurs from Disunity to Unity state, which is the most common arc in movies, or any other trajectory (Unity to Disunity, Disunity to Unity Rejected, etc) does, indeed, act like Fate, what I call the Narrative Imperative. Again, it’s not arbitrary, rather it is grounded in the very nature of the Protagonist — “The seeds of change lie within” (Ovid) — and plays out in an synergistic relationship between Plot and Character.

Tomorrow we round off this discussion with Jung’s summary observation: Become who you are.

Reflections on Carl Jung (Part 3): Make the Darkness Conscious

January 6th, 2016 by

The more I study Carl Jung, the more I discover his ideas about psychology have a direct relevance to screenwriting (specifically) and stories (generally). This week, a 5 part series focusing on Jung’s notion of individuation, the achievement of one’s self-actualization through a process of integrating the conscious and the unconscious. This movement toward a state of what Jung called ‘wholeness’ is an enlightening way to think about what many in the screenwriting trade refer to as the Protagonist Transformation Arc.

In Part 1, we explored Jung’s theory of individuation which he described as the “psychological process that makes of a human being an ‘individual’… a ‘whole’ man.”

In Part 2, we considered the idea that the unconscious, the stuff of an individual’s Authentic Self, naturally seeks to emerge into the light of consciousness, and how we, as writers, can think of a Protagonist’s transformation as a reflection of this dynamic.

Today we look at a particular aspect of an individual’s psyche:

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

— “Alchemical Studies, Vol 13”

A key part of this transformation process is for an individual to confront their shadow, a term originated by Jung in relation to analytical psychology:

Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.

— “Psychology and Religion”

Going back to Joseph Campbell’s observation about the starting point of the Hero’s Journey — “They need to change” — their Old Way of Being does not only represent an inauthentic existence, it’s also a system which actively represses the character’s shadow. The Protagonist cannot move toward Unity and Wholeness without confronting their Shadow. But that can be a dangerous proposition:

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster; and each individual is only one tiny cell in the monster’s body, so that for better or worse he must accompany it on its bloody rampages and even assist it to the utmost.

— “On the Psychology of the Unconscious”

Positively demonic dynamism… emerges a raging monster... bloody rampages. This inner tension is rife with psychological danger. But as writers, we can up the conflict: What if we project these attributes into External World as a character: The Nemesis? Now we create a specific psychological connection between the Protagonist and antagonist figure, taking that internal struggle and visualizing it in the physical world.

Since movies are primarily a visual medium, this is a powerful way we can take this inner dynamic suggested by Jung — “Make the darkness conscious” — and turn it into cinematic drama.

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: Luke confronts his own pull toward the Dark Side of the Force in the form of Darth Vader.

Michael Dorsey in Tootsie: As Dorothy Michaels, Michael is exposed to the sexist attitudes and antics of Ron, the despicable director of the soap opera Michael finds himself acting in.

Ripley in Aliens: As Ripley’s connection with Newt allows her to get in touch with her lost sense of motherhood, she is drawn into a violent struggle with another mother: The Alien Queen.

Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs: Straddled with an infantile sense of guilt over her father’s senseless murder, Clarice confronts Buffalo Bill, a symbolic version of the men who killed her father.

How interesting when we work with a Protagonist to think about their initial state of Disunity, that underneath whatever veneer they are presenting to the world, there is this roiling set of psychological dynamics, bursting at the seams to move from the darkness into the light. And a major part of the psychological struggle for the character is dealing with the fear of confronting their own Shadow.

To my way of thinking, this Disunity state is such a richer way to think of the Protagonist’s beginning state of being than the frequent advice: Give your Protagonist a ‘flaw’.

This construction offers even more in terms of the Protagonist Transformation Arc as the very roots of Disunity imply – for most movies – a change toward eventual Unity.

Tomorrow: Psychological Rule as ‘Fate’.