In this video, I’m going to show you how to create dimension to your characters through the implementation of a psychological crisis. A heads up that if you haven’t watched the video on worldview, you may want to do that before you jump into this one. Let’s get on with it.
A good movie always throws a character into a dilemma. Whether it’s financial, social, or physical, there’s something beneath the surface. The fundamental source of a character’s present dilemma should provide the injunction for the character to change the implements of their worldview – they must feel the need to change their life circumstance. For a character to identify, on some basic level, with the presence of a dilemma, is to also be aware of a genuine psychological trap and to realize there is an urgency to remedy this dilemma associated with that trap.
To date, we’ve identified 30 psychological crisis dynamics that we see across all films, especially in the greatest or most esteemed picture. In American Beauty, Lester is experiencing a crisis of “desire”; he is being denied the ability to have fulfilling, sensuous and emotional experiences. Yes, on the surface his wife is a tyrant and his family treats him like he’s a loser, but the argument here is that external variables – again – are really baselined by their psychological implications – there’s something deeper at play here. Another example is in The Descendants, Matt is experiencing a crisis of “fulfillment”; he is a person who doesn’t have ability to contribute and receive from others in the intimate domains of life. Yes, his wife is dying and there’s mounting regret regarding his relationship, and his daughters are hard to deal with, but these external variables are really only trapping him psychologically as the very fundamental dynamic that needs addressing is his ability to connect with the people he loves the most.
As we can see, the Crisis Dynamic forms a basic recognition that it will be necessary for a character to change his/her mentality or approach to life, which will allow them to change the implements of their worldview and allow them to undergo psychological change.
Enmeshment in a psychological crisis is humanizing; it makes characters relatable and understandable. It’s also causative; it creates a trap and illustrates how a character feels impaired emotionally or psychologically and creates definitive direction. Without a personal pressing psychological crisis, characters are hard to identify with, they’re difficult to understand because having a pressing personal crisis is such a fundamental piece of why we act in particular ways and open ourselves toward particular influences or relationships.