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INNER DRIVES: What's My Character Motivation? "Peter Pans, Papas, Pygmalions"

[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 Productions and available at the Writers Store.]


Just as females in romantic relationships usually fall into one of the Marilyn, Mom, or Muse categories, so too do men in romantic relationships often get stereotyped into one of these three categories.

ScriptMag Col 11 - Peter Pan
  • As the Peter Pan he is the eternal youth, the boy who refuses to grow up and who clings charmingly but ferociously to his self-centered Lower Solar Plexus focus.
  •  As the Papa he takes on the breadwinner-protector role and usually becomes very serious as he shoulders responsibility for the family from an Aspirational Solar Plexus Inner Drive.
  •  As a Pygmalion he takes on the project of remaking and molding another person to his own ideals in a Throat Center effort of conscious creativity.

Unlike with Marilyns, Moms, and Muses, where problems can occur when someone has begun a relationship in one Center and then moves or is forced into one of the others, most problems occur for males and their partners because the men will not move. Nor will they ask for directions.


The Peter Pan is visionary, exploring, naïve and selfish. He clings to his ego-centric position as if it were a matter of life-or-death and in a way, it is. He resists the efforts of others to manipulate and control his reality.

About a Boy — Hugh Grant ducks responsibility until it serves his desires.

The Big Lebowski  - The Dude is a thoroughly endearing, White Russian-drinking, pot-smoking slacker Peter Pan who abides.

Peter Pan - Need I say more? See the poignant P.J. Hogan version.

The Papa paradigm is all about responsibility, though many TV sitcoms portray dads as bumbling fools. While romantic comedies take couples through Sacral romps, their ideal ending is a move to the Papa and Mama situation.

American Beauty - Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham threw off the shackles of his Papa roll and reverted to the Peter Pan, reclaiming, against society’s rules, his own identity.

ScriptMag Col 11 - 50s Dad and family

Leave it to Beaver ­- Ward Cleaver is the perfect ‘50s Papa.

Mr. Mom - Michael Keaton’s Jack Butler struggles to be perfect, with comedic effects.

In Greek myth, Pygmalion was disappointed in love so he carved a statue and worshipped her. Love goddess Aphrodite brought his statue Galatea to life and supposedly they lived happily ever after. The desire to remold the imperfect into perfection is the core of Pygmalion stories.

Born Yesterday ­- the Pygmalion role goes awry when the girl falls for her Throat Center tutor instead of the Sacral Center Sugar Daddy who’s paying the bills.

Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady.

Pygmalion Richard Gere in Pretty Woman transforms Julia Roberts and lifts her from gutter to penthouse.


Peter Pans can be dashing and daring, like adventuresome Pirates. As a Peter Pan moves to a Papa focus he will become more sedate, more expansive, more altruistic, and protective of his family. A Peter Pan/Puer forced into the Papa responsibility mode against his will is going to suffer deeply and often cause those around him to suffer through his petulance, depression, and/or violence.

Many Romance novels transform a Peter Pan into a Papa, usually through the irresistible allure of the leading lady in a combination of Marilyn and Muse. This often unrealistic ‘taming’ of the man is presented as a dream to women, a blessing for the men. Comedians play havoc with this situation and portray the ‘taming’ as a nightmare to the men.

If a man consciously chooses to move his main Inner Drive focus that’s all well and good. But story wise, keep in mind that you can cajole, seduce, or force someone to act differently…for a while. Until their consciousness itself alters, the old Inner Drives will resurface, causing all sorts of conflict. And lucky for you…drama.

Papas often call their wives “Mom” and are called in turn “Dad”, rather than using first names. The children always come first (so they claim).

In their midlife crisis, men often go from Papa to Peter Pan with such as Harleys, young trophy wives, working out.

One positive way to portray the Papa is to have the man expand his awareness, influence, and responsibility out into his community, city, nation, or some larger noble Cause. You could have him fretting over the responsibilities at first and then get inspired and motivated by the altruism and rewards of the Aspirational Solar Plexus position.

Men in the Pygmalion role see potential in others and foster it. Sometimes Pygmalion finds himself in competition with his creation, as in A Star is Born.

Pygmalion priant Vénus d'animer sa statue, Jean-Baptiste Regnault

Drama increases when Pygmalion’s desires for rewards are thwarted by the Galatea he has created.

Like the young man in the myth, Pygmalions are often picky and judgmental, demanding perfection and refusing to settle for less. Benedict in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing embodies this type.


In your stories, bring us more insight into the Peter Pan/Lower Solar Plexus, Papa/Aspirational Solar Plexus and Pygmalion/Throat motivations and the conflicts that arise when significant others and society demand changes before the guys are ready to move.

Experiment with various tones and approaches to the blurring borders between masculine relationship roles and the discomforts that arise when people no longer know what’s expected of them and are allowed to make their own rules.

Use the full Inner Drives information to structure more dynamic and intriguing characters. Use your unique creativity to help create new roles and archetypes.


Awareness Exercise

Identify a real-life male in one of these levels who resists someone else’s efforts to make him change.

Name a different story character on each of the three different Centers: Lower Solar Plexus, Aspirational Solar Plexus, Throat.


Writing Exercise

Take one of your male characters and move him from one of the P-P-P Centers to a different one. Show how another character reacts to that, either positively or negatively.


Pamela Jaye’s books and seminar CDs can be found at the Writers Store and on her website MYTHWORKS. To learn more about her consulting, writing, and pitching services, visit the MYTHWORKS website.

This article in the Writers Store gives an overview of the chakra system and its relevance to media.

BOOKS & SEMINARS Inner 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

© 2014 Pamela Jaye Smith

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