[Based on Pamela's book for screenwriters, directors, actors, and designers Inner Drives: Create Characters Using the 8 Centers of Motivation (chakras) published by Michael Wiese Prods and available at The Writers Store.]
The most interesting story characters and relationships, be they combative or supportive, are those that change and grow. Use movement between Pairs of Centers to enrich your the character development and dialogue of your individuals and your ensembles.
The three pairings:
- LOWER SOLAR PLEXUS/ASP-HEART
The Ajna is the Center of balance and integration so has no pairing.
ROOT / CROWN TRANSFER
The Root Center is about individual physical existence in this time and place. The Crown Center is our connection to higher consciousness.
The Hindu god Shiva and goddess Shakti, the Egyptian god-couple Isis and Osiris, Christian Jesus and his bride The Church, and Greek hero Perseus and the Princess Andromeda are mythic examples of this pairing of Root and Crown Centers.
SACRAL / THROAT TRANSFER
The Sacral and Throat Centers are both about creativity. The former is unconscious creativity (you can gestate a baby while in a coma) and the other is conscious creativity – like writing a screenplay. One is sensual, the other mental.
The tempestuous artiste is an example. The writer Christian in Moulin Rouge is a Throat Center character delightfully seduced by ebulliently Sacral Satin. Most of the characters in Wolf of Wall Street vacillate minute-by-minute, deal-by-orgy between Sacral and Throat. Big Bang Theory shows most of the characters bouncing chaotically between Sacral and Throat.
LOWER SOLAR PLEXUS / ASPIRATIONAL SOLAR PLEXUS-HEART TRANSFER
This Transfer is between the selfish “me” and generous “we”, between exclusion and inclusion.
If The Lion King had been more mythologically correct Simba would have learned useful things while in exile and become a better ASP leader, rather than simply an entitled LSP one.
MOVING BETWEEN PAIRS WITHIN THE SAME CHARACTER
Perhaps your strict no-nonsense parent becomes a fun-loving spouse once the kids have left the nest (Aspirational Solar Plexus to Lower Solar Plexus), or the retired aeronautics engineer takes up cooking or gardening (Throat to Sacral). Perhaps the Type-A businessman tosses it all over for life in a monastery (Lower Solar Plexus to Aspirational Solar Plexus).
ROOT / CROWN
Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy goes from the on-the-run living-in-shadows Root Center Ranger to taking his rightful place as king at the Crown Center.
Dichotomy: dark/light, passive/active, vicious/benevolent.
SACRAL / THROAT
Geeks will often be stymied in the Sacral/Throat Transfer and get stuck in the Throat Center.
In Dangerous Beauty Veronica Franco makes the transfer and link-up successfully as she becomes a supremely popular courtesan, poet, fencer, and unofficial diplomat — while she’s expertly boffing most of the elite guys of Venice.
Dichotomy: passion/ration, emotional/mental, chaotic/ordered.
LOWER SOLAR PLEXUS / ASP-HEART
Schindler’s List is a fascinating portrayal of a man moving from secure LSP to the dangers of ASP/Heart.
Dichotomy: selfish/unselfish, judgmental/accepting, introvert/extrovert.
When a person hasn’t yet made the full shift they’ll keep bouncing back and forth between the two Centers.
One of the most impressive and entertaining examples of Sacral/Throat Rubber-Banding is Willem Dafoe’s performance as the FBI agent Paul Smecker in The Boondock Saints. He vacillates wildly between astute, opera-loving, Throat Centered crime-scene analysis and radical over-the-edge, fevered, fey-gay, dandified Sacral bitchiness.
HOW RUBBER-BANDING WORKS
A character will have a great thought, learn a new skill, have a great spiritual insight. They’re charged with goodness and joy. Then an emergency arises and because of their recent experience they are able to inject a fresh point of view.
Because Frodo has wrestled with the dark power of the One Ring, he recognizes its power battling for control of Sam inside the volcano in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Frodo has built a range and is therefore able, with great internal struggle, to hold the higher focus and help Sam.
Have the initial shift be a short amount of time in the new Center. Then your character bounces back to their old ways and that lower drive takes over again. But, they carry some glimmer of the new way with them and it begins to take hold. With each successive challenge the story offers, they get stronger and more grounded in their higher focus.
Nick Nolte’s artist in New York Stories is a perfect example of the Sacral/Throat Rubber Banding so typical for creative people trying to also have a “real life” between the isolation of artistic work and the desire for human contact.
Sometimes the shift is from higher to lower like Shakespeare’s Othello.
Reactions from other characters help illustrate Rubber-Banding. “See, you always do that”...something to show the protagonist is still perceived as being in the old Center.
At the beginning show an action done in the old way — working, relationships, etc. — and then changing mid-stream to the new way.
CENTER PAIRING BETWEEN CHARACTERS
Craft two characters (complimentary or antagonistic) on different ends of a Center Pairing and use their conflicting drives to create dramatic tension.
ROOT / CROWN
Though not very common in real life stories, this pairing is most often seen in fantasy, sci-fi, and games. Monsters against gods, demons against demi-gods.
SACRAL / THROAT
Ariel in The Little Mermaid operates from an innocent Sacral but gives up her voice (Throat) to the wicked, conniving Sea Witch Ursula in order to marry the guy (Sacral).
LOWER SOLAR PLEXUS / ASPIRATIONAL SOLAR PLEXUS-HEART
In Lawrence of Arabia Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence (ASP) serves as a catalyst to unite the squabbling Bedouin tribes (Lower Solar Plexus) long enough to take back Damascus from the Turks and help the Allies defeat the Axis in WWI.
Use the pairs of Centers (Root/Crown, Sacral/Throat, LSP/ASP-Heart) to align your antagonist and protagonist, create romantic couples with built-in conflicts, and portray warring drives within an individual.
With this psychologically relevant information you can craft unique characters who undergo dynamic, believable challenges and changes both within and without.
The Fall down - Name a mythic, fictional, or real character who was at the higher center and then because of a disaster, an attack, a temptation, fell down to the lower of the pair.
The Climb up – And name a character who did just the opposite, moving from lower to higher.
Write a short scene in which your character is in the lower center of the pair. Then put your character in the same setting but focused in the higher center. Think of the two different ways Indiana Jones dealt with his fear of snakes at the beginning and towards the climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
This article in The Writers Store gives an overview of the chakra system and its relevance to media.
Enter the Hollywood Writers Contest with your story idea. The winner’s story will be turned into a screenplay by Pamela Jaye and pitched by her PitchProxyPros company at The Great American Pitchfest. Winner receives a trip to L.A. and to Tippi Hedren’s Shambala big cat reserve [part of the entry fees are donated to Shambala].
BOOKS & SEMINARSInner Drives / The Power of the Dark Side / Symbols.Images.Codes / Beyond the Hero’s Journey / Show Me the Love! / Alpha Babes / ArchePaths / Warrior Way for Filmmakers and many more.
© 2014 Pamela Jaye Smith www.mythworks.net
- More Inner Drives articles by Pamela Jaye Smith
- Balls of Steel: Finding Character Motivation, Conflict and Compassion
- Specs & The City: Establishing Characters and ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’
- Storytelling Strategies: Monster University‘s Scary Character Arcs
Tools to Help:
- Pamela Jaye's books and CD's at The Writers Store
- Creating Unforgettable Characters
- Persona: Character Development Software
- Creating Dynamic Characters On Demand Webinar
- Breathing Life Into Your Characters