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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Your Character's Favorite Fairy Tale Says About Them

I'm back on the Transactional Analysis bandwagon and I've got a WAY cool post for you today.  We're going to be looking at what your character's favorite fairy tale or mythological story might say about them.

People have life scripts. A life script is the idea that we tend to have an unconscious life plan that we made as a child and follow as an adult. According to the theory, this life plan is basically complete by the time you (or your character) is 7 years old. The life script is a story we tell ourselves about what we can achieve and what's possible for us in the future. 

So what's your character's life script? What are the unwritten rules and expectations that they have set for themselves that they are following and living out? Because as we all know, most people like predictability. Even people who thrive on change...a constantly changing world is that person's predictability. 

One way to determine this is to look at your character's favorite fairy tale/myth.  

It's unconscious, of course, but children often use fairy tales as a model for their own life stories. It doesn't have to be all about princesses and princes, however, although every girl on the way to prom has visions of Cinderella going to that ball, make no mistake!

Ask your character who their favorite hero or heroine is. (Believe me, it's not lost on me the irony of that statement.) Have your character talk about himself or herself as that hero or heroine, but using their (your) own voice. 

For example: "I am Gretel from Hansel and Gretel. I'm poor, but attractive. I really want to help people and I try to be productive with my time, but I always seem to be getting lost and losing my way. Nothing seems to go right for me until the very end...just when I think I'm about to die from the stress of life."

Do you see how a person might gravitate toward a particular character in a nursery tale? Let's look at one from mythology:

"I am Icarus. I always seem to get too close to things and get burned. I find that I'm constantly striking out and doing my own thing and letting my Dad down. I just shoot so high, sometimes....too high for my own good. I let my pride get in the way too often."

Now that you have a feel for the exercise, you should know that life scripts typically come in one of three types: winning, losing, and banal scripts. A winning script allows for the person to get what they want in the end...the happy ending, so to speak. Losing scripts allow for the person living them not to get what they want. A banal script is built on mediocrity--nothing much gained, nothing much lost. 

The idea behind Transactional Analysis is that once you know what your unconscious life plan is, you make the decision to change it (also called Redecision Therapy). Things decided about life from the perspective of a child are limited. A generalized truth for a 6-year-old might not even be true for that same person as an adult today. Scripts can be changed or even discarded.

Your characters are adults...and they are free to write their own story.



Susanne Dietze said...

Fabulous post! I'm definitely going to try this exercise for my characters. Thanks, Jeannie.

PatriciaW said...

Very interesting. Can a person have multiple life scripts, depending on the context? For example, the person might have a losing script when it comes to happiness but a winning script when it comes to acquiring things, and these two scripts drive their behavior.

Joanne Sher said...

Just fascinating, Jeannie! Gotta think about Ashia in this regard.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Awesome post, girl! This is a great way to think about our characters. Love it.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

patricia - that's a great question! yes, a person can have more than one...but usually one over-arching, driving one. (i.e, the acquiring script will be stronger than the losing happiness one).

Jen said...

What a fantastic idea! I'm fairly sure that my MC is telling me that fairytales are for little girls, but I'm sure if we dig around we'll find one he remembers!

Brianna Soloski said...

Interesting post, Jeannie. I've learned so much from your posts over the last couple of months.

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