Change Character to Change Life?

Do You Have to Change Your Character to Change Your Life

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Life-Changing Potential

What happens in any good story is not that characters change, but rather, their circumstances have forced them to take a new tack, and parts of their character that were previously dormant, suddenly open up and are revealed.
James Ryan
How does discovery of your life-changing potential relate to self-trust and self-confidence in life-changing stories?
True Self Trap Ryan Quote

Discovering Your Potential

Screenwriting from the Heart, by James Ryan, has a different perspective on what it means to change your life. You don't have to be interested in writing scripts for movies to benefit from the fundamental idea of Ryan's book. Good stories are about discovering life-changing potential.

Life change doesn't mean that you trade in your old self for a new kind of person. Rather, it means that you discover that you have more potential than you realized you have.

Consider these Google definitions of potential:

Having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.
Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.

Consider also this Google definition of latent:

(of a quality or state) existing but not yet developed or manifest; hidden; concealed.
synonyms: dormant, untapped, unused, undiscovered, hidden, concealed, underlying, invisible, unseen, undeveloped, unrealized, unfulfilled, potential

All of these words are different ways to say the same thing: you already have the potential, the capacity, the ability. Pick whatever synonym you choose to change your life for the better.

How Characters Develop

Character is one more Google definition for you to consider:

the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
"running away was not in keeping with her character"
synonyms: personality, nature, disposition, temperament, temper, mentality, makeup;

a person in a novel, play, or movie.
synonyms: persona, role, part; dramatis personae
"the characters develop throughout the play"

The characters develop throughout the play. This is the essence of James Ryan's claim about stories:

What happens in any good story is not that characters change, but rather, their circumstances have forced them to take a new tack, and parts of their character that were previously dormant, suddenly open up and are revealed (Screenwriting from the Heart, page 34).

In good stories, characters develop self-trust and self-confidence as they discover that they have more potential than they realized. They don't change their characters to become someone else. Rather, they develop the potential characters they already have to become more fully themselves. 

When you are challenged by something in your life that requires you to do what you have never done before, you will not changed into someone else. Rather, you will discover that you are capable of doing far more than you thought you could. The discovery of dormant potential results in increased self-trust and self-confidence. This is why you don't have to look outside yourself to become someone other than yourself. You can look inward to discover your life-changing potential to develop your own character.

Screenwriting From The Heart: The Technique of the Character-Driven Screenplay, by James Ryan.

"The value of character-driven screenplays is demonstrated in this step-by-step approach to showing aspiring filmmakers and writers how a script is created through the development of compelling characters."

Even if you aren't interested in writing screenplays, if you love movies, you might be interested to understand why your favorite movies are so compelling.

[Original Post August 15, 2014]

What are your thoughts about how your favorite compelling movies encouraged you to become braver in your own life? Leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

My book, How to Get Out of The True Self Trap: The Life-Changing Secret of Heroic Stories,  challenges the assumptions of self-help work that treats you as a problem to be solved. This tendency is deeply rooted in religious and psychotherapeutic beliefs about fixing what is wrong with you. In contrast, heroic stories are about ordinary people doing extraordinary actions in response to some outer challenge. In the process, they discover that they are capable of far more than the imagined.

Available on Amazon in either Kindle or paperback versions. Click Buy Now From Amazon to get your copy now.

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