Step One: Weakness and Need, part three

I’m sucking all the goodness out of John Truby’s book, THE ANATOMY OF STORY. He offers seven steps to building a successful story structure. In the last two posts, I outlined Step One, how Weakness and Need were important parts of creating a believable character. Today I’ll finish up the discussion of this first step.

To recap, all characters need a psychological need, or a major flaw that hurts themselves in some way, and a moral need, which hurts others. (See the previous post if you’re still confused, or if you want a couple of examples.)

But if your hero is missing that critical moral need, how do you build one? Truby offers two techniques for creating the necessary moral need. Here’s the first:

1. Begin with the psychological weakness, the inner flaw that hurts only the hero.
2. Figure out what kind of immoral action might naturally come out of that weakness.
3. Identify the deep-seated moral weakness and need that are the source of this action.

The second technique is to push a strength so far that it becomes a weakness:

1. Identify a virtue in your hero. Then make him so passionate about it that it becomes oppressive.
2. Come up with a value the hero believes in. Then find the negative version of that value.

Hope that helps. In the next post I’ll look at the second step in this seven-step process.

-Sonja

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