Tag Archives: John Truby

Christine’s desire

I ended my last post with a question; what does Christine’s desire line look like? It would be easy to say Christine’s desire is to escape prohibition but I don’t think that adequately describes what she wants. To truly understand her desire we first have to understand her need. What must Christine fullfil within herself to have a better life? Need is about overcoming her moral and psychological weaknesses. The knee-jerk reaction to this question identifies her drug use as her weakness but as I tried to explain in my previous post Christine’s drug use is not a negative. That understanding just doesn’t fit with the moral vision or theme I have for the story. As I understand it Christine’s weakness is her rebelliousness; that impulse she has to resist authority, control or convention. In the “Character Web by Archetype” chapter of “The Anatomy of Story” John Truby notes that the rebel’s strength is the “courage to stand out from the crowd and act against a system that is enslaving people.” The weakness of this archetype is that they “often cannot provide a better alternative, so end up destroying the society.” I think of the link between the two sides of her weakness like this. If Adam’s self-righteousness is a product of a positive pushed until it becomes a negative; his responsibility, taken to the extreme, is oppressive. Christine’s weakness is a product of her bravery pushed until it becomes destructive. At the beginning of the story her rebelliousness is the wellspring of the conflict with Adam. Her defiance exasperates Adam. He reacts with self-righteous indignation and arrests her, which reenforces her will to resist. At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something. An insight that brings me to the conclusion that Christine’s need is to change the society she lives in. Ironically, a need she is only able to fulfil through Adam. When he chooses freedom over security at the end of the story Adam is fulfilling Christine’s creative need to free society. He is doing it because of what he has learned through Christine. A conclusion I wasn’t really aware of until now. Christine’s desire line is not to escape prohibition, it’s to change Adam. This insight changes the way I look at Adam and how he relates to Christine. But that’s the subject of another post.

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Reiner’s need

Many of the recent Carrion related posts have had something to do with Anthony Reiner; specifically those character related issues to do with his moral and psychological weakness. In these posts I tried to understand the things that are not only hurting Reiner, his psychological weakness, but are also hurting the people around him, his moral weakness. In the end I realised that Reiner’s moral weakness is his persecution of the drug user; a characteristic implicitly informed by his psychological weakness, an authoritarian personality. What I haven’t addressed so far is Reiner’s need. His need, to paraphrase John Truby, is what he must fulfil within himself in order to have a better life. But I’m having difficulty reconciling Reiner’s need with Adam’s; understanding how their individual needs interact. The story focus of Carrion is Adam. The events of the plot transform him from a self-righteous policeman into what I can only describe as a caring insurgent. I realise that reads like an oxymoron but essentially that’s what he becomes. By the close of the plot he truly cares about Christine. For the first time in their relationship he puts her needs first, even though what she asks from him devastates. From this personal crisis comes his new moral action; he picks up a gun to fight prohibition. The story ends only after he has taken this action, finally making the moral argument against security and for freedom. But what does all this mean when we start to consider Reiner and his need? What must he fulfil within himself in order to have a better life? And how does he argue for security? I think the answer to this question can be found in his authoritarian personality. In “Reiner and the totalitarian mindset” (1) I noted Alfonso Montuori’s characterisation of the totalitarian mindset as a response to the stress of contemporary pluralism. Basically we live in complex times full of uncertainty. We feel threatened. And when we’re backed into a corner we have a tendency to succumb to black-and-white solutions. When I translate this back into Reiner it indicates a course of action that goes something like this. Adam’s refusal to kill Christine at the end of the first act turns Reiner’s reality upside down. Until this point he considered Adam a protege and so perceives his refusal to kill Christine as nothing short of a treasonous betrayal. He finds the chaos of Adam’s refusal intolerable. He has a psychological need to restore order, return Adam to the fold. Unable to do this he has a moral need to destroy him. His attempts to enforce prohibition are his attempts to make the moral argument against freedom and for security. The punch, counter-punch of antagonist and protagonist play out as Adam and Reiner fight over the kind of world they will live in. In the end Reiner’s argument for security is crushed by Adam’s argument for freedom. If this were Reiner’s story instead of Adam’s, the argument for security would crush the argument for freedom. One final thing. At some point in the not too distant future I will have to turn all of this conjecture into a screenplay but until I’m clear about each character that seems like a folly. Expect more conjecture.

Throwing out the first act

Finishing my last post brought with it something of a revelation about Carrion, an insight that means I’ll be throwing out the first act; at least those scenes involving Adam and Reiner. The ideas for the change bubbled up after a lot of research about Reiner’s totalitarian mindset. I’ve been concerned since the outset of this draft with the action that puts Adam in conflict with Reiner. The idea that I’ve been working with to date has his relationship with Christine provide the substance of the conflict that pits the two men against each other. But I’ve never really been happy with how that scenario plays out. The inciting event simply wasn’t strong enough. It doesn’t explain Adam’s decision to put his self-righteous attitudes to one side and save Christine. Neither does it explain the vitriol Reiner has for Adam. What I’ve really been looking for is something that serves two functions. First it has to force Adam to land definitively on Christine’s side. Second it has to make an absolute enemy of Reiner. I think I’ve found the solution in the hierarchical structure of the totalitarian regime. Reiner is member of the regimes inner circle. He puts his standing on the line when he sponsors Adam’s induction. The price of Adam’s admission is Christine. In a proving ceremony reminiscent of a scene from Eyes Wide Shut Adam has to kill Christine. When he refuses, he not only puts himself on the wrong side of the regime, he also makes a mortal enemy of Reiner. Adam is cast out, throw into a cell with Christine and John, condemn to suffer the fate of all junkies in the coming genocide. This changed scenario brings with it an inciting event that kick-starts the story. It allies him with Christine but still allows her to be an opponent. It gives Reiner a character specific reason to hate Adam. It also mirrors the final battle, resonating against Adam’s choice to help Christine commit suicide. Hope that all makes sense. This really is me thinking out loud.

Inciting Adam

While writing about Reiner’s authoritarian personality (1) I noted the polarisation of freedom and security. Adam and Reiner’s conflict, at it’s deepest level, is a fight over the kind of world they will live in; “will it be a world ruled by freedom or one ruled security?” If Adam is to have a better life at the end of Carrion he has to reject the world of security demanded by Reiner and make a positive choice for freedom. The seed of this decision is sowed in the stories inciting event. Adam has to do something at this critical juncture of the story that, to quote John Truby, “causes the hero to come up with a goal and take action.” The difficulty I have is that Adam and Reiner are part of the same tribe. They are policemen in a totalitarian state that has built it’s identity on attacking drug users. Adam at some level shares this totalitarians mindset. He couldn’t be a policeman if he didn’t. So what would make him question the orthodoxy? If part of the totalitarian mindset that Adam is part of is the authoritarian personality exemplified by Reiner, an individual willing to belittle himself so he can, as part of something greater, become great himself; what would startle Adam out of that delusion? My gut tells me the only thing powerful enough to force that kind of revelation in Adam, is a direct attack on Christine. Whatever self-righteous stance he might take against her drug use, she’s still his sister, the only remaining member of his family. Whatever he believes at the beginning of the story, when she is attacked, he would feel compelled to save her. At present the inciting event happens as Reiner attacks a surrogate for Christine. Adam gets a call from Christine as Reiner beats the surrogate to a pulp. Reiner’s action and Christine’s plee for help prompt Adam to abandon his post and go to help Christine. I have the feeling that this is only the proverbial straw that breaks the camels back. The attack on Adam would need to be more sustained before he finally reject Reiner. Perhaps the key is in the symbiotic tendency of the authoritarian personality, in the idea of the tyrannical father who torments his wife but is subservient to his superiors, those closer to the inner circle? Perhaps Reiner uses Christine against Adam; he has to choose Christine or Reiner. Instinct tells me that’s actually the choice Adam has to make in the final battle. The last stepping stone that gets him to the freedom side of the river. What I’m looking for is the first stepping stone on that journey. I’m sure it has to be a direct attack on Christine. Reiner makes a move against Christine, which forces Adam to step in. His instinctive response to save Christine puts him in direct conflict with Reiner. With this choice made I now have to go back and restructure the first thirty five minutes of the plot. Good job I’m not already half way through a draft. Moral of this post. Plan. Plan. Plan.

Reiner’s authoritarian personality

In my two previous posts I tried to pin down the totalitarian mindset. What is it that makes Reiner such a vitriolic exponent of prohibition? That enquiry prompted me to uncovered Reiner’s moral and psychological weakness. Those things that are hurting not only himself, his psychological weakness, but also the people around him, his moral weakness. Reiner’s moral weakness is his persecution of the drug user; a characteristic implicitly informed by his psychological weakness, an authoritarian personality. The realisation that Reiner has an authoritarian personality fits perfectly with the standing I have for him in my head but ignorance forces me to ask; what is an authoritarian personality? I found a good answer in Erich Fromm‘s 1957 article “The Authoritarian Personality” (1). Fromm defines the authoritarian personality as an inability; “the inability to rely on one’s self, to be independent, to put it in other words: to endure freedom.” I am struck by this phrase “to endure freedom.” At the core of the conflict between Adam and Reiner is the polarisation of freedom and security. As John Truby points out “a true opponent not only wants to prevent the hero from achieving his desire but is competing with the hero for the same goal.” (2) On first inspection the two men have completely different goals. Adam needs to save Christine. Reiner wants to destroy all drug users. On the surface their desires are different. But after a great deal of reflection I realised the two men are actually fighting over the kind of world they will live in; what kind of world will survive, will it be a world ruled by freedom or one ruled security? If Adam is to have a better life at the end of Carrion he must choose freedom to the exclusion of that demanded by Reiner. For Reiner freedom always exceeds to security. The security of the nation. The security of belonging to something greater. The security of the mindset that accepts the logic of the ruler and the ruled. Exploring the digression a little further I am struck by the torturous state of mind that Reiner must suffer if freedom is something that has to be endured. The freedoms implicit in the choice to take drugs must be physically painful for Reiner. Which gives an indication of the depth his hostility for drug users goes and why he is compelled to correct the imbalance with violence. That said Reiner’s inability to endure freedom is not the whole story. Fromm’s description of the authoritarian character is more detailed. More detailed than it is possible to detail here. But if it were applied to Reiner, he would be described as an immature personality who “can neither love nor make use of reason.” Reiner feels alone. And gripped by fear he needs to feel a bond with something greater. A bond he finds “in the symbiotic relationship, in feeling-one with others; not by reserving his own identity, but rather by fusing, by destroying his own identity.” His adherence to the prohibitionist cause is a subconscious desire to be part of a larger unit. What Fromm might describe as “masochistic and submissive character aims” has Reiner belittle himself so he can, “as part of something greater… become great himself.” But Reiner’s “passive-authoritarian” can only survive by connecting with the figure of an “active-authoritarian.” A character type who, I now realise, is missing from Carrion. He is present in the abstract, in the form of a government, in the “Code-10” laws that seek to marginalise the drug user but as a tangible character that Reiner has to look up to, has to submit to, he’s missing. This is something that needs to be rectified if the story world of Carrion is to work. It’s a mistake on my part to think Reiner can function without this figure. Finally I think it would also be a mistake to understand Reiner as an entirely passive. Inherent in the notion of the active and passive authoritarian is the notion of hierarchy. Reiner’s masochistic desire to be ruled also comes with a sadistic desire to rule. It’s part of the symbiotic tendency inherent in the authoritarian personality and goes some way to codifying the relationship between Adam and Reiner at the beginning of Carrion. Fromm likens this characteristic to the tyrannical father “who treats his wife and children in a sadistic manner but when he faces his superior in the office he becomes the submissive employee.” Reiner treats Adam in a sadistic manner but in his dealings with his boss is submissive. Put simply he’s a bully. I’m sure that Reiner’s desire to dominate Adam plays a part in Adam’s rejection of Reiner but the exact nature of his choice eludes me at the moment. In the story world of Carrion, where the totalitarian mindset is all pervasive, what makes Adam step back and pause for thought? Perhaps the simple act of hesitation puts him at odds with Reiner? He can smell the scepticism on Adam which is enough to elicits the wrath of the pedant in Reiner. Adam’s “rebellion” cuts Reiner to the quick in the same way freedom is something he has to endure?

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