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Old 02-20-2018, 04:01 AM   #1
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Post Thoughts On Wounds! (Aki!)

A Wound, sometimes known as a character’s ghost, is a traumatic event in the character’s past that explains to the audience why the character is the way she or he is.

It’s the experience that defines the psychological struggle they must combat on a daily basis. The moment that sets them on a journey to becoming who they can be; if they can manage to recover. Basically, it’s the psychological dragon they must slay.

Bruce Wayne’s Wound is that fateful night where he let his fear beat him as a child and, as a result, tragically contributed to the death of his parents.

Del Spooner (I, Robot), a guilt-ridden Chicago Police detective in a world filled with robots, was part of a car accident where a robot chose to save his life and not the life of a little girl. His Wound is both physical and psychological.

Mike Chadway (The Ugly Truth), the endearing misogynist (if there is such a thing), has such strong opinions about how men and women operate because of the many painful experiences he had pursuing love.

These traumatic events, these Wounds, will help the audience understand why these characters say what they say, and do what they do throughout the story.

So, figure out what your character’s Wound is, and how its effects continue to ripple throughout your character’s life.

A Wound can take many shapes, and your creativity will play a major role. But, one element that can really add a punch to a character’s Wound is if they hold themselves responsible for what happened, regardless if that is true or not.

For Bruce, he blames himself for his parent’s death, and that guilt is still in him as an adult.

Bruce: “It’s my fault, Alfred, if I hadn’t gotten scared…”

Spooner also blames himself for what happened the night of the accident, to the point where he experiences survivor’s guilt.

Spooner: "That was somebody's baby..."

Now that we have a better understanding of what a Wound is, let’s discuss what that means for your characters in terms of their character arc and plot.

At the beginning of the story, and your character’s character arc, we, the audience, will usually see how the character thinks they’ve figured out a fix for the damage their Wound has caused them, when, in reality, they really haven’t.

As a result of their Wound, the character will develop a harmful, sometimes even destructive lifestyle that doesn’t really solve the problem, but just makes things...tolerable, at best.

This faux-fix might even give them what they think they want, but, it certainly doesn’t give them what they need. Think of it as putting a bandaid on a broken bone.

After the death of his parents, Bruce returns from Princeton, caring very little about what happens in his life.

Alfred: “I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to do with your past, sir. Just know that there are those of us who care about what you do with your future.”

But the death of his parents, his Wound, still very much weighs on him.

Because of that night, Spooner developed a deep distrust towards robots...

Spooner: “These things are just lights and clockwork”

...and refuses to see that they can actually be a force for good in the world...

John: (Agitated) “When has a robot ever committed a crime? Spooner: "Never, John.”

...further distancing him from his fellow human beings.

Mike, again and again, instructs Abby on how “men are simple,” and how that if she wants a relationship: “It’s called a stairmaster, get on it!...Because at the end of the day, all we’re interested in is looks.”

Clearly establishing that he does not believe in the concept of love.

For the majority of the story, and until they realize this, the characters can’t help but be affected by their Wound. Their behavior is still very much influenced by their trauma; even if they can’t see how it controls them.

In response to the Wound, the character creates a facade, or a shell persona to hide and protect themselves from the world, while living everyday afraid to face reality and the truth of how fragile they are.

The Wound traps the character in this static state where they can’t grow, change or move on; both as a person, and within the context of their world.

Now, this next part is important, so listen up.

Because of how traumatic this Wound is to the character, it creates a Flaw in them; something that they need to change in order for them to be their better selves.

This one Flaw, and please remember that their Wound only creates one, is what the character will be internally fighting against throughout the film.

For Bruce, he travels the world, aimless, surrounded by criminals,

R'as Al Ghul: “...but, whatever your original intentions, you have become truly lost.”

His anger and thirst for vengeance still keeping him from dealing with his parents’ loss, honoring their memory and resulted in his father’s company deteriorating.

Bruce: “My anger far outweighs my guilt”

For Spooner, he’s developed a complete distrust towards technology...

Spooner: “...those robots don’t do anybody any good.”

....damaging both his personal and professional relationships, despite the fact that said technology helped save his life.

Gigi/Spooner's Grandmother: “Of all the people on God’s earth, you should know better.”

To the outside world, he’s...

Random citizen: “...a asshole.”

For Mike, he objectifies women and thinks less of men, all because he believes women don’t really want true love, but rather a checklist.

Mike: “Is he perfect? Is he handsome? Is he a doctor?”

Turning him into a bitter playboy/...

Abby: “...man-whore.”

So, what causes the character to change and let go of this comfortable facade?

The story.

Particularly, this specific story; because it will only deal with their one Flaw.

By going through the obstacles in the story, the character is given the opportunity to grow and change. The story will help them finally heal from their Wound and forgo their fake yet comfortable facade.

ButT, there’s a catch.

This chance at blissful change comes at a very uncomfortable cost:

The character has to painfully, agonizingly, excruciatingly let go of that fake, comfortable life and personality that they hid within before they can change and grow.

They have to be the most truthful, honest and vulnerable with themselves they’ve ever been.

This realization may look like it happens in one scene, but it’s actually the result of a steady learning curve on the part of the character. More like a steady, leaking faucet, than a waterfall.

Bruce: “Everything my family...my father built...I failed.”

For Bruce, he had to realize that he’d been chasing vengeance, not justice. That he’d been dishonoring what his parents were trying to do for Gotham by not looking “beyond your own pain”.

But, and true to Batman’s unrelenting character, Alfred echoes the Wayne family motto:

Alfred: “Why do we fall, sir? So we could learn to pick ourselves back up.”

From there, Bruce, now a fully realized Batman, truly understands that...

Batman: “...it’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”

For Spooner, his view of Sonny, the robot, slowly evolves the more they interact, going from hostility to sympathy...

Spooner:“I guess anything is normal for someone in your position.”

Sonny: “Thank you. You said someone. Not something.”

Even friendship.

For Mike, it’s finally admitting that love “is scary. It’s terrifying. Especially when I’m in love with a psycho like you.” And, once again be willing to believe in love and be with Abby.


Now, let’s talk about timing, specifically when the Wound takes place, and when it is dealt with by the characters.

The Wound, and by that I mean the actually traumatic event, happens before the story begins, but is mentioned no later than the Second Act of the film.

Like most things in writing, it depends on the story. And, I’ve always believed that if you can make something work despite the supposed rules, you should.

If the Wound is mentioned in the beginning of the film, it will usually be during the opening scenes; so that we quickly understand the main character’s damage and know exactly why they act the way they act throughout the film.

For Spooner, we get glimpses of the accident haunting him, in the first couple of minutes of the film.

Jumping over to a different genre…

Marlin (Finding Nemo), a father, almost loses his entire family in the blink of an eye; fate only leaving him little Nemo.

What the writers have done with this scene is help us understand why, throughout the film, Marlin is so overprotective of Nemo, and why he has to learn to eventually let him go.

If the Wound is found later on in the telling, it will often be during a particularly emotional scene, or scenes, that help us further understand the character.

For Bruce, it’s the scene after his parents’ killer was shot.

Bruce: “I’m not one of your good people, Rachel...All these years, I wanted to kill him….Now I can’t.”

Rachel: “ Your father would be ashamed of you.”

Sheesh. Heavy.

For Spooner, this moment occurs when Calvin asks “What happened to you?” and Spooner tells her about the accident, and how an NS-4 saved him and left the little girl to die.

Spooner: “...that was somebody’s baby. A human being would’ve known that.”

For Mike, the Wound was broken up into two scenes.

After a brief probing interview with Craig Ferguson, Abby asks:

Abby: “I’m just interested in what makes you you.”

That’s when Mike admits that he is the way he is because “I could only have so many lousy relationships before you figure out that there’s no such thing as a good one.”

Such moments typically happen where the pace of the story kinda slows down, giving the audience a break from the action, and instead injecting some #feels.

Now, as far as when the Wound, and by extension, the Character’s Arc, is resolved, it’s typically before the protag fights their big, climactic battle with the antagonist.

And this, again, can be done in one or more scenes, depending on the dynamics of the story. But, regardless of what the story is about, the character reaches a simple conclusion when it comes to their Wound:

Spooner: “You have so got to die.”


Lastly, let’s talk about how the character’s Wound is brought up in a scene.

There are three ways: through Dialogue, through Visuals, or you can just avoid addressing it all together.

The Ugly Truth, or how Mike came to be who he is, is a perfect example of dialogue. Mike discusses his past with both Craig Ferguson and much more openly with Abby later on, and that’s how we learn about his Wound.

Finding Nemo is a clear example of showing, the film opening with Marlin all but losing his family. The same goes for Batman Begins and I, Robot.

As for avoiding addressing the Wound scene all together, I invite you to take a look at Riddick, from Pitch Black.

We never really know, within the context of the film, what the heck happened to make Riddick, an infamous serial killer, well...Riddick! And, yet, it works! Why?

Because knowing Riddick’s Wound wasn’t really necessary for us to have a clear picture of his identity.

We know who Riddick is because of how the other characters react to him and how much he terrifies them.

We understand Riddick, because we understand how scared the others are of him and how much they come to respect him.

We don’t need to know why he is the way he is, because we can see all we need for him to be a compelling villain/anti-hero.

He is a cold, calculating shark, and, to the other characters’ dismay, is their only hope. Us not knowing his Wound doesn’t compromise how terrifyingly bad ass he is. So, it works.

There are a lot of films out there in which the main character has no Wound and, by extension, no or merely a minor character arc; but, they are still very good films for other, more surface-level reasons.

If you do decide that your character best benefits by you not showing their Wound, you, as the writer, still need to know what it is; even if you don’t include it in the story.

Because, trauma, be it in the real world or a fictional one, informs who we are as people. And that deeper level of understanding will help you better know your characters.

Well, that’s all I got for you today, gang.

Hope that helps!

Aki, out!
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aki, character, screenwriting, thoughts on, wounds

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