By: C.S. Lakin
Persona vs. Essence
All of us are flawed. Over the years, since childhood, we have developed a “face” we present to the world. Often that face is formed by hurts we’ve suffered early on. We start out all innocent and sweet, and then after a few of life’s hard knocks, we hide behind a persona that feels safe. A true hero’s journey will show the process of the hero moving from his persona to his true essence by the end of the story. And this is a great model for novelists.
Almost all great stories show the protagonist at the start of the book in his normal world. This is the place in which he functions, interacts with others, and makes his way through life. But if you’re telling a rich story, there’s going to be something wrong with this picture. Even if this character seems happy, we can tell he’s really not. And it really doesn’t have to do with his visible goal established at the outset. Oh, they are interconnected, and the goal should be a vehicle for helping your character “find himself.” But reaching his visible goal isn’t the real thing that will make him truly happy. Every person who is not living in his or her true essence is going to be unhappy.
So your character should reveal this in the first chapter somewhere. Not that they’re miserable and glum. You can have a really happy character step onto the stage. What I’m talking about here is showing some aspect of the character’s persona (the face he presents to the world) that is not really him, not how he truly feels, and is the source of some dissatisfaction in his life because, well, he’s being phony in at least some way.
Who Really Is My Hero?
Here’s a question you can ask: “Who would my hero be if he could really find the courage to [or was forced to] strip away his outward personality and reveal his true self?”
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