Weakness, need, and desire

I’ve been thinking about Adam’s weakness, need, and desire. I was prompted to look at Adam’s story in this way by John Truby’s book “The Anatomy Of Story”.

The thing I find most interesting about Truby’s approach is the end result, a story that delivers meaning through the actions of the hero. Central to this approach is figuring out your characters weakness. This weakness should not just be a psychological weakness, something that is hurting just the hero, it should also be moral weakness, something that is hurting other people.

Working through this idea, I found Adam’s weakness by identifying a virtue in him and pushing it until it becomes oppressive. Adam was an only child until he was fifteen, he developed strong connection with his parents, a sense of responsibility that led him to join the army when he was seventeen. He didn’t want to put the financial pressure on his parents of a university education.

It was the same sense of service that forced him to leave the army and take care for Christine when their parents were killed. Adam’s virtue is his sense of duty, he does the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. The flip side of Adam’s virtue is a propensity for self-righteousness. That feeling of moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs are of greater virtue than those of the average person.

For me it’s the single most identifiable quality of prohibition, it’s what makes Adam think arresting Christine and John for possession is the right thing to do. He’s doing it for their own good. Just as prohibitionist think they know what is best for an individual, Adam thinks he knows what’s best for Christine.

After I fixed in my head Adam’s weakness I then had to tease out his need. The need is what Adam must fulfil within himself in order to have a better life. This led me to look a the quality that is farthest from self-righteousness, the quality of humility. If Adam is to have a better life by the end of the story he needs to discover humility, he needs to be humble.

Adam’s weakness: He is self-righteous (psychological), tries to control Christine (moral), enforces prohibition.

Adam’s need: He needs to learn how to be humble (psychological), stop controlling Christine (moral), fight prohibition.

The other key element of this equation is Adam’s desire. Desire is what the hero wants in the story. Although it is intimately connected to the hero’s need it’s not the same thing. I’ve been working under the presupposition that Adam’s desire is to save Christine. The question then becomes, how do I know he has saved her?

Until that solidifies within the story I am forced to wander the plot looking for an answer.


3 Replies to “Weakness, need, and desire”

  1. Welcome back Darrin…… I have been here a few times but all was silent and deserted. I only returned because you popped in to visit my blog….thanks for that. I sense a stirring, perhaps a fresh breeze ruffling the paper and ready to dry the fresh ink……


    1. Thanks for your comments. As I said external pressures have kept me too busy to post anything of interest. But now I’m working hard on the redraft of Carrion. Questions I ask myself while working that seem to get posted here. It helps me clarify my ideas. I hope to be less tardy in the future. Once again thanks for your comments. D. 😉


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