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Inner Drives: What's My Character Motivation? - At the Root of It All

by Pamela Jaye Smith

[Based on Pamela's book, INNER DRIVES: Create Characters Using the 8 Centers of Motivation (chakras) published by Michael Wiese Prods and available at The Writers Store.]


Want to create characters that last forever?

Learn to use the same character-building tools used by myth-makers and story-tellers throughout the ages.

Want your characters to be understood around the world?

Use the global system of character analysis and creation that’s based on how we really are – physically, psychologically, and philosophically. Since every person has the same system, everyone will intuitively recognize your characters if you align them with this system.

One of your biggest challenges is to create unique characters that sound, look, and act differently one from the other. Learn to use the Inner Drives to create unique, dynamic, believable characters.

The Inner Drives chakra system is a rich resource for character development, character arcs, and building ensembles. Chakras are actual bundles of nerves in our spinal column that control the endocrine glands which release hormones, which affect our feelings and actions – and sometimes vice versa.


In this first of twelve monthly columns we explore the Root Chakra, the very basis of physical existence. Other columns will cover the other chakras as well as character arcs, chakras in conflict, doing a “chakra run,” and more.

Each column will explain what the chakra is, where it is, what hormones are associated with it, how they affect personality. You will find archetypes, symbols, styles of speech and action, foibles and phobias, types of food – relevant to each chakra. A number are listed for each category; you can select one for each character, so even if you have two characters coming from the same Inner Drive, they can still be unique.

Learn to use these Inner Drives and you too can tap into the power of myth for characters in any genre or style. My article in the Writers Store ezine gives an overview of the chakra system and its relevance to media.


Why does the Terminator growl, “I’ll be back”? Because he’s programmed to kill and will not stop until that mission is completed. A killing machine is scary because there’s no way to stop or deflect it with human logic, reasoning, or emotion. Only physical action will deter it. If you’re creating a character who is out to kill, or one who is the target of a killer, this chakra is for you. Monsters belong here. Why is The Joker in The Dark Knight so despicable? He is a vivid Root Chakra character, determined to bring others down to his level of destruction and death.

On the positive side, they can also be the all-nurturing earth mother, mother nature, the abundance of the very ground itself.


  • The drive to be in a body and to stay alive: animal nature, instinct, robotic
  • The desire to connect with the actual earth
  • The cold drive to kill and destroy


The chakra system is often depicted as a tree, a staff, or a stick. Many myths reference this such as the Egyptian with the winged staff, the Bibles serpent twining up the tree, and the Hopi with different “worlds.” The first chakra is where we connect with the earth, where we are rooted.

The Root Chakra is at the base of the spine, connected to the adrenal glands. The hormone adrenaline is for fight-or-flight.

A person can become addicted to the adrenaline rush; down that path can lie bungee jumpers or serial killers, depending on the ethics of the individual.

The Root Center is a prime motivator for characters such as the Joker in Dark Knight, Mandarin in Iron Man 3, and Katniss on the run in Hunger Games.


Spirit is said to have fallen into its reflection in Matter and become trapped. This is mythologized in the Hindu Vedic representation of Shiva and Shakti. Shakti (Matter), is at the Root Center and Shiva (Spirit) is at the Crown Center. Enlightenment is about raising the energy from the Root back up to the Crown.

In the Kabala the Great Serpent winds its way down the Tree of Life from Kether the Crown Center to Malkuth the Root Center. The spiritual path of evolution then moves back up through these energy fields from Malkuth to Kether, Root to Crown.

Cold-blooded demonic villains of myth and legend personify this lowest Center, including Echidna, the mother of all monsters from the Greek system, and the black and bloody death goddess Kali in the Hindu system.


ASSASSINS — From the crafty to the foolish, martyrs and suicide bombers.

EARTH GODDESS — Celtic Ceridwin with her cauldron of plenty and Greek Demeter with her Horn of Plenty.

HEROES AND HEROINES WHO FACE MONSTERS — Some are trapped in Matter and/or threatened by monsters, such as Shakti, Andromeda, Brunhilde, Sleeping Beauty, etc. Heroes who must fight for survival. Many warriors are on this chakra in the midst of battle: Beowulf, Richard the Lionheart, Thor, superheroes.

MONSTERS — Zombies, demons, vampires, werewolves. The Cyclops, Minotaur, and Harpies of Greek myth, Grendel of Beowolf, Frankenstein’s monster.

SURVIVALISTS — They’re all about fear of and preparation against looming destruction.


CAULDRON, HORN OF PLENTY — The Root Center is the doorway for the soul to come into a physical body; these womb-like containers are the source of food and plenty.

DRAGON, SERPENT — Many cultures have a serpent, snake, or dragon as a major deity: Quetzalcoatl of Mezo- and South America, the Chinese dragon, the Aborigine’s Rainbow Serpent, Christianity’s Satan, Islam's shaitan, and the sandworms in Frank Herbert’s Dune series.

SKULL — A symbol of death, skulls crowd the landscape in The Terminator films, Kurtz’s compound in Apocalypse Now,  and many horror films. And how about horrid zombie skulls...ewwww!


SATURN — contraction, limitation, sorrow, death, and endings. It’s influence is about foundations, about actually being alive in a physical body. Saturn is called Lord Karma because it brings around unfinished business, both positive and negative.

CAPRICORN & SCORPIO — Both are associated with death, endings, dark secrecy, hidden things and motives.


  • Reptile and animal skins
  • Tattoos, scarification
  • Natural fibers, hemp, raw primitive “Hippie look”


  • Feet firmly planted; stomp around
  • Scurry lizard-like, ala Smeagol in Lord of the Rings
  • Tearing up, squashing, destroying things


  • Pulls wings off flies [sociopath , psychopath]
  • Claustrophobic
  • Coffee, teas, stimulants


  • Simple, short
  • Solid, grounded, material, hard, tough, thick, congested
  • Dark, sharp, heavy, thunderous


Atonal, chants, drumming, ring dances, stomps, simple steps.


The Joker in Dark Knight, Freddy Krueger in Nightmares on Elm Street. Jason, Darth Vader, Smeagol, and the Uruk-hai and Orcs in Lord of the Rings. Vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Uber-villains in super-hero movies.


Action & horror films, 2012, Alien(s), Armageddon, Avengers, Clockwork Orange, Deep Impact, Deliverance, Die Hard, Independence Day, Kill Bill, Pacific Rim, Passion of the Christ, Predator(s), Replacement Killers, Saving Private Ryan, Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre(s), The Shining, Titus, Transformers, True Blood, Twilight, World War Z, Zombie Apocalypse


A Root Center character will be in life-or-death dilemmas of their own creation or will be forced there by others or by circumstances. The answer to “What’s My Motivation?” is simple — Sheer Survival or Death and Destruction.

On the destructive side it’s about elimination of anything and anyone. On the softer side it could be “back to Nature.”

So after all the blood and guts are shed and shredded and physical survival is secured, what’s next on the rise through the Inner Drives? How about sex and money? Column #2 explores the Sacral Chakra.


AWARENESS EXERCISE - Come up with two examples of a Root Chakra character or situation.

WRITING EXERCISE - Rewrite an existing scene to make your selected character on the Root Chakra. Use at least four of the descriptors listed above when writing about their actions, how they speak, how they look, their astrological sign, their favourite film, etc.


Pamela Jaye’s books and seminar CDs can be found at The Writers Store and on her website MYTHWORKS

Inner Drives / The Power of the Dark Side / Symbols.Images.Codes / Beyond the Hero’s Journey / Alpha Babes / ArchePaths / Warrior Way for Filmmakers / and many more.

© 2013 Pamela Jaye Smith

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