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INNER DRIVES: What's My Character Motivation? Driving the Character Arcs

[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.]


The INNER DRIVES offer an excellent paradigm for moving your character through various states of mind, emotions, and actions.

There are basically three approaches to character arcs: up, down, or static. Each approach has its own particular Opposition and Assistance.

Your heroine’s Inner Drive and Goal will be one of these:

character arcs

1. Static Aspiration - to hold or perfect the current Center
2. Upward Aspiration - to attain a higher Center
3. Fall & Redemption - to regain a Center from which she was tempted or displaced

Both the Assistance and the Opposition can come from their current Inner Drive Center, a higher one, or a lower one.


These stories will often be about sports, skills, or relationships. Your character’s goals and desires will be variations on the same Inner Drive. They could be in competition with someone else on the same Center or, seeking to master some aspect of the Center which has eluded them.
Most martial arts films are about holding one’s own against all comers, which is not to say they aren’t fun and exciting.

Romantic comedies are about achieving goals and satisfaction on the romantic Centers, Sacral and/or Aspirational Solar Plexus.


Many stories are about someone desperately wanting something they do not have, be it a person, a position, or possessions. It makes for good storytelling to watch them yearn and strive against the challenges and obstacles.

Evita Peron was a streetwalker (Sacral) who marries a dictator (Lower Solar Plexus) but then works to help the ordinary people (Aspirational Solar Plexus).

Indiana Jones is also forced up from self-centered Lower Solar to self-sacrificing Aspirational Solar by outside circumstances as Raiders of the Lost Ark propels him to battle the Nazis for possession of the Ark.


Your heroine is either tempted down or forced down into a lower Center by her own weaknesses (addictions, foibles, etc.), by other people (temptation, abduction, war, etc.), or by events (floods, hurricanes, depressions, comets, etc.).

WEAKNESS - The character falls, explores the new Center, but then rises even higher than where they were before, even though they had not had that in mind in the first place. They kind of surprise even themselves.

Fatal Attraction tells of someone who broke the rules, with bad results. LSP Dan (Michael Douglas) is easily seduced away from his ASP wife (Ann Archer) by the damaged-Sacral Alex (Glenn Close). It ends badly with a boiled bunny and a dead woman.

OTHER PEOPLE - Gladiator shows how an Ajna Center General is torn from his position by others and thrust into Root. The story is then about how Russell Crowe’s Maximus struggles courageously and cleverly back up to an Ajna Center.

In Gravity, Sandra Bullock’s Throat Center scientist is yanked down to the Root-Survival Center by other human’s mistakes. The story ends with her survival but we do not see her back being a scientist.

IMPERSONAL EVENTS - Disaster movies wallow in this version as people from many different Centers are thrust down into Root and then struggle to survive and/or to make their way back up again.

In The Lord of the Rings Boromir is tempted by the dark power of the evil Ring and falls, though he eventually redeems himself and pledges fealty to Aragorn with his dying breath.

If you’re doing a Fall and Redemption Arc, you’ll want to be sure the temptation is attractive enough (Double Indemnity), the danger strong enough (2012), and the rise back up difficult enough (Gladiator) to make a good story.


To align your payoff with your setup for a proper Resolution, by the end of the story the heroine has:

1. Maintained her current Center and/or gotten a new reward and/or broadened her effect in that area.
2. Gained the aspired-to higher Center.
3. Reclaimed the initial Center but with insights and abilities she will use to help others in the same dilemma.
4. Been defeated or failed but now knows where she should be and has some idea how to get there.

Remember to utilize all aspects of a Center profile to illustrate the changes, from wardrobe and speech styles to foibles and foods.



Describe the character arc in an Oscar nominated film, preferably for an acting award and not necessarily the winner in its category.

Did that character have a Static, Aspirational, or Fallen arc? What was the main Assistance/Ally and what the main Opposition/Protagonist?



Take a minor character in one of your own stories and give them a sub-plot that arcs one of these three ways. Write two scenes: one that illustrates what Inner Drive they are on initially and one that either shows the change happening, or one that shows the end results.

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.

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 & 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 and many more.

© 2014 Pamela Jaye Smith

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