Search This Blog

Character Currency In Action

Tweet: Characters all have needs and desires that form their #emotionalcurrency.

Currency = Motivation
A character’s currency might be safety, money, esteem, physical objects, or spiritual wellbeing. Some desire closeness. Others desire space. A character’s “currency” is the key to influencing them, building relationships with them, and igniting their fury.

If someone keeps trying to motivate or influence your character by promising or threatening them with things they don’t want or don’t care about, their efforts will fail. 

Characters with opposing currencies have a difficult time building a relationship, a friendship or a working partnership.

Emotional currency provides the carrot and the stick of dynamite.

An antagonist who threatens people with things they aren’t afraid of fails in his scene objective. An antagonist who bribes his henchmen with things they don’t want also fails in his scene objective.

If Dick is motivated by a job well done, then self-esteem is its own reward. Dick might react positively to praise or find it uncomfortable.

If Dick performs a task for the self-satisfaction of seeing it done, when Sally heaps praise on him for it, it won’t mean much. His lack of reaction can confuse and annoy Sally. Especially if Dick counters the praise with, “I didn’t do it for you.” Those are fighting words. Sally feels her gift of praise is rejected, her feelings are hurt. That will either throw her into passive mode or aggressive mode.

If  Sally feels like she is giving Dick something, even if it is something Dick neither wants, needs, nor values, she expects esteem in return. Dick, not understanding her currency, won’t give it to her. He will just be annoyed that he was given something he didn’t want, need, or value.

In order for them to mend fences, Sally would have to come to grips with the fact that not everyone wants, needs, or values what she wants, needs, and values. Dick would have to learn how to graciously accept something he didn’t want because Sally was exhibiting generosity of spirit in giving it. 

To go forward in a healthy manner, they would both have to learn to communicate their wants, needs, and currency in a calm, rational way. That rarely happens. Characters rarely become so self-aware that their psychological buttons aren’t pushed. That's why we have fiction ... and reality television.

The esteem of others can be a reward that reinforces Dick's scene or overall story goal. This is great if Dick is building a house for Habitat for Humanity, not so good if he is building a robot that will take over the planet.

If Sally does something with the expectation of being praised and praise is withheld, she may get mad. She may be tempted to get even. She might undo her efforts in retaliation for not receiving the accolades she hoped for. She may be driven to petty acts of spite or refuse to cooperate further. This dynamic plays out in couples, families, and offices all over the globe. It plays out in classrooms, sports teams, social clubs, and PTAs.

If Sally is denied praise and Jane receives praise, Sally will deflect her anger onto Jane. Jane will become a target for her revenge fantasies, especially if the person she really wants to punish is untouchable, dangerous, could fire her or she's married to him. She might think before she strikes at someone she has to live with. If Dick needs a specific piece of information, physical object, or cooperation, he will have to figure out what Sally’s currency is and use that to influence her to give it to him. Her mind will automatically assign a more desirable scapegoat for her frustration.

Dick can try appealing to Sally’s sense of fair play. If Sally has been repeatedly denied the praise or recognition she deserves, she won’t feel like being fair.

Dick can try appealing to her sense of accomplishment by praising her work. Sally recognizes that Dick is feeding her a line and refuses again.

Dick can try bribing her with more money than she can make in a year. Sally is well off financially and that carrot isn’t enough to sway her.

Dick remembers a conversation they had about Jane and how Jane unfairly received praise for something Sally felt she deserved the credit for. Dick offers to help her harm Jane’s reputation or make Jane look incompetent. Bingo, Sally agrees because revenge and retaliation are her currency of the moment. That doesn't make Dick a nice guy, but sometimes you have to do something bad to get something good, or at least promise it in the heat of the moment and renege on it later!

All of your characters will be motivated and influenced by their currency. Conflicts and misunderstandings will abound.

For more tips on motivating your characters, check out Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, available in paperback and E-book.

No comments:

Post a Comment