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Inner Drives: What's My Character Motivation? "Raising the Dragon - Mythic Character Arcs"

Red dragon based on the book, Inner Drives: Create Characters Using the 8 Centers of Motivation.

[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.]


Every protagonist and some antagonists need to go on a journey, to have a Character Arc. This is one of the most mythic and powerful journey arcs of all—Raising the Dragon. In this pattern the protagonist journeys from the Root Center all the way up to the Crown Center, hitting most of the other Centers along the way. Ideally they will meet obstacles, gain abilities and allies, overcome challenges, and absorb the lessons of each of the Centers of Motivation. As they add the values of each INNER DRIVE to their personal tool kit they become more capable and more enlightened, until by the end of the story they are close to perfection—whatever that might look like in each particular story.

A. THE THEORY "Raising the Dragon" is a character journey that shows up in many myths, particular the journey myths. In Mesopotamian legend the goddess Inanna journeys down into the underworld. At each step along the way she must shed an item of her identity until she finally stands stark naked before the doors of the underworld. On the way back up she reclaims the aspects of the Centers but with renewed respect and appreciation of each. Odysseus’ journey from Troy back home to Ithaca touches upon the Centers: the fall into Root in the Land of the Lotus-Eaters; breaking out of Root at the cave of the Cyclops; Circe and the pigs is Sacral, as is resisting the seductive call of the Sirens; he passes between the conflicting Solar Plexus polarity of Scylla and Charybdis; and so on until he makes it home and regains his Crown as King of Ithaca. You could create setbacks for your character by taking them up the Centers too fast. A mythic example is Icarus, who rose up from the dark (Root) trap of the Minotaur’s labyrinth towards the sky, but then disobeyed his father Daedalus’ instructions and flew too close to the sun (Crown). The wax on the youth’s wings melted, the feathers fell off, and Icarus plunged into the sea (Solar Plexus emotions) and perished.

B. THE PRACTICESome “Raise the Dragon” films are Apocalypse Now (especially Apocalypse Now Redux), Groundhog Day, Jacob’s Ladder, and Under Siege. All take the main character on a dramatic ride from a drop down to the Root Center, then back up through most of the other Centers, to the very top.


GROUNDHOG DAY This charming film tells the story of a man who redeems his own flawed nature through trial and error, moving through and up the Centers, shifting his INNER DRIVES, and becoming a more whole, enlightened person. Phil Connors begins as a selfish, arrogant, mean man. He gets stuck in time and relives the same day over and over again.

First he goes wild and breaks rules, then he falls prey to despair. Gradually, inspired by love and desiring to relieve his own suffering, he learns the lessons of the various Centers and eventually masters them all. Along the way he develops many talents, helps alleviate the sufferings of others, and begins to value himself and other people.

Bill Murray Groundhog Day

At the end of the story Bill Murray’s Phil has integrated and balanced his own INNER DRIVES and has consciously chosen to live his life for the greater good under the direction of his higher self. Mythic notes: February 2nd, Groundhog Day is also the Celtic holiday Imbolc, the beginning of the new year. Andie MacDowell’s Rita is always ASP; she is the magnet that attracts Phil up from his lower focus. Insurance Salesman Ned Ryerson is all Sacral: insurance is all about fear and money, right? Producer Rita and Cameraman Larry both wear blue, the color of relationship. The repeating radio-alarm music “I got you, Babe” reflects inspirational (ASP) romantic linking. The last song contains a lyric about having a smile for the whole human race.

Every protagonist and some antagonists need to go on a journey, to have a Character Arc. This is one of the most mythic and powerful journey arcs of all—Raising the Dragon. This image shows the protagonist journeys from the Root Center all the way up to the Crown Center, hitting most of the other Centers along the way from the movie Groundhog Day.


Apocalypse Now and Apocalypse Now Redux both have “Raising The Dragon” runs. The former is lacking some Centers that the latter fills in. On your own, analyze both those movies which take the hero Captain Willard from Root Center, up-river (the spinal column) through varied adventures and misadventures to Colonel Kurtz (the wounded Crown Center). In a shift of polarities, it’s also Willard who is the fallen Crown Center and who goes upriver to sacrifice and redeem the fallen Root Center Kurtz. Sound confusing? They are mirror images of each other: Willard tells us at the beginning that to tell Kurtz’s story is to tell his own. Both movies are fascinating and powerful “Raising the Dragon” paradigms.

C. CONCLUSION If you’re doing a plot-driven story it’s cleanest to construct a straight-forward run up, like Steven Segal’s in Under Siege. If you’re doing a character-driven story you’ll have more psychological complexity with a Rubber-Banding rise like Groundhog Day. Jacob’s Ladder is a scary psychological journey up the chakras and even has a chiropractor helping Tim Robbins’ hero make the transitions. But don’t watch that movie alone. Either way, your main character will arrive at the Crown Center after incredible adventures, revelations, challenges, and accomplishments. Be sure to tell us what the hero has learned.


AWARENESS EXERCISE–What protagonist goes through many distinct personality shifts within a story – yours or someone else’s? WRITING EXERCISE – Construct an 8-beat outline that takes your character up through 8 Centers of Motivation.


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 & 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


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