One of the most important concepts in our theory is that of the influence exerted by Ideals. In this video, I’m going to show you how to understand ideals, and how applying them to your tool belt can help you map your script’s emotional profile.
A basic way to understand an Ideal is that an Ideal is the potentially attainable (and potentially embodied) expression of a person or archetype. Ideal, by definition, is one’s conception of that which is perfect or “ideal.” Very simply, if my ideal is to be a great screenwriter or artist (meaning I want to embody what it means to be a great artist or I want to reach some pinnacle of artistry), then I’d be embodying the ideals of the archetypal “Artist”. Simple enough.
Now, characters are aware of Ideals – but, as or more importantly, so are we. The audience is aware of ideals and we process in very visceral ways when a character has “entered into a correspondence” with a particular ideal. For example, In Catch Me If You Can, Frank wants to be the James Bond of the sky and we understand that. When this occurs – and it occurs in every narrative – the Ideal creates the outline of what the character “can become”, “must live up to” and sets the standard to which he/she is compared.
The presence of Ideals is essentially universal and the most engaging characters – even if they’re just supporting characters – ought to be “Informed” by some Ideal because the Ideal is what gives this person a sustainable existence and sense of “Self-Purpose.”
A last note is that the existence of an Ideal means that a character is given the positivist idea to assert that they are or can be someone – and something specific. They may not know what exactly this looks like, but they know they can be that thing and that this thing is a decidedly more fulfilling than what they currently are.