The Makings of a Good Character – Attitude

attitude is everythingWhile belief colours a character’s world, attitude is the manner in which a character expresses his beliefs.

Attitude is determined by an intellectual decision – a personal judgment – this is right and that is wrong.

Attitude encompasses a person’s behaviour. Do you know someone who is “always right,” about everything? That’s an attitude. Being socially or morally superior is also an attitude: so is being “macho.” A political opinion expresses an attitude, as does complaining about what is wrong with the world.   In professional sports, trash-talking has become a way of life. That’s an attitude, as are most of the lyrics in rap music. –Syd Field–The Screenwriters Workbook

By understanding your characters attitude, you can show who he is by his actions and dialogue.   Astrologically, attitude can best seen by the placements of Mercury and Mars.

 Mercury underlines our mode of expression: thinking, linking the conscious with the unconscious, bringing people together, connecting facts and events.–Karen Hamaker – Zondag

Mercury’s sign also describes about how we communicate and exchange ideas and information. – Liz Greene

Mars tells us how the individual uses his energy and makes his presence felt. Karen Hamaker – Zondag

Mars’ sign shows the way in which you assert yourself: how you go about getting what you want.  Liz Greene

For most, Mercury and Mars will not be in the same zodiac sign. For some, they may be an easy aspect (trine or sextile) making the characters attitude more harmonious, easy to depict.  For others, they may be in hard aspect (square or opposition)  or in no aspect at all.   This provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate depth of character –  the more tension within, the more tension without.

Some typical attitudes:what-is-right-attitude

  • Aries:  Blurts things out without thinking – acts impulsively – is argumentative – “I can’t be bothered I don’t care– I’m pissed off.”
  • Taurus: Responds slowly and only after due consideration – acts calmly, with caution, is predictable – reserved – “I take things slowly – I play things safe – if you upset my apple cart, you’ll be sorry – never underestimate an angry bull.”
  • Gemini: Blabbers on about anything and everything – has trouble focusing, is nervous, restless – “I’m curious, cute, and clever – but don’t bother getting too close ‘cause I won’t be staying that long.”
  • Cancer:   Like a chameleon, changes with the environment– if peaceful and happy, then positive – if dark and negative, then not – “I’m shy, delicate, a wall flower – I prefer to live in the past – mess with my family, I’ll break your f…ing neck.”
  • Leo: Exaggerates about everything– craves attention – presumptuous – defensive – “I’m cool, I’m hip – I’m worthy of your approval – if you don’t give it, I’ll sulk big-time.”
  • Virgo: Critical about everything – dissects and discriminates, practical and efficient – doesn’t miss a trick – “I doubt it – You didn’t pay attention – Give it here…can’t you do anything right?”
  • Libra: Takes a balanced view– plays devil’s advocate – is superficial – easily disappointed – “That’s nice, but… – that’s not fair… – if you don’t follow the rules, I’ll pack up my stuff and go home.”
  • Scorpio:  Always sees strings attached – knows just where to stick the stinger – obsessive – secretive – suspicious – “I don’t trust you – you’ll be so, so sorry – I see exactly what you’re trying to do.”
  • Sagittarius: Focuses on the future – sees the bigger picture – restless – open minded – frank – “Move west, young man – I said that, really? – OK, let’s go.”
  • Capricorn: Speaks shrewdly – gives good advice – systematic – organised – realistic – “Do be serious –God helps those who help themselves – a penny saved is a penny earned.”
  • Aquarius: Approaches everything objectively and with detachment – tends to black and white thinking – opinionated – contrary – controversial –  “I’ve got a dream – we can do better – off with their heads.”
  • Pisces:  Vivid imagination – chaotic thinking – intuitive – telepathic – passive aggressive – escapist – “Don’t cry – I’ll take care of it – oh my … surely not tonight?”

The Makings of a Good Character – Point of View – Belief

BeliefEPoint of view shades and colours the way we see the world.

Have you ever heard or reacted to phrases like: “Life is unfair,” “You can’t fight City Hall,” “ All life is a game of chance,” “ You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”?   These are all points of view. –  Syd Field – The Screen Writer’s Workbook.

As Carl Jung said, physical reality is just one kind of reality.  In this respect, if someone holds a belief (however possible of physical manifestation) then that belief  it is as real as anything else.

Character POV is that belief.

Your character’s point of view may be that the indiscriminate slaughtering of dolphins and whales is morally wrong because they are two of the most intelligent species on the planet, maybe smarter than men. Your character supports that point of view by participating in demonstrations and wearing T-shirts with Save the whales and dolphins on them. That’s an aspect of characterization. Syd Field – The Screen Writer’s Workbook.

Although there are many astrological aspects contributing to one’s POV, I suggest that the most powerful and accessible is through Jupiter.

Jupiter is our personal connection with the “divine plan”. – Liz Greene

Jupiter is the fire that connects you to the larger picture. – Darby Costello

Jupiter is the desire to view facts and events within a wider framework. – Karen Hamaker-Zondag

  • Jupiter in Aries – is on a crusade – save the world – save the whales – save everything – beliefs are passionate and held with such courage and conviction that it’s virtually impossible to persuade them elsewise.  You’re likely to find this character marching through the streets with placards or making a fiery speech in favour of Occupy Wall Street.  “I can and will fight city hall.”
  • Jupiter in Taurus – trusts in the beauty and abundance of the material world– especially when hard work and personal enterprise are concerned – good with finances – beliefs are unadventurous and must lead to tangible results – you may find this character a successful homemaker or helping start up businesses or organizing fundraisers for an art gallery or opera house.  “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”
  • Jupiter in Gemini – believes in the power of words and ideas – the only problem is that while gathering the evidence to support his beliefs, he has a tendency to get distracted.  Beliefs are aimed at furthering connections or  imparting information.  You’re likely to find this character as a stand-up comedian or award winning journalist or even a blogger who has an opinion on everything.  Beliefs tend to be idealistic and not necessarily intended to be realised.  “You won’t believe this one.
  • Jupiter in Cancer – believes in history and tradition.  Beliefs are aimed at preserving the family unit – giving help to those within the ‘extended family’ and receiving help in return.  The emphasis is on closeness – the shared experience.  This character is likely to be found in the caring professions – nursing, social work, or a family court judge.  Equally she may be a chef or even a nun. “Have some more – it’s good for you.”
  • Jupiter in Leo – is pulled toward anything that brings joy and meaning to others as well as to self – beliefs likely have a philanthropic bent – they aim to bring out the best in everyone – especially self.  You’re likely to find this character running a charity or campaigning for better schools in his neighbourhood or even selling ice cream at the sea shore. “Give and you shall receive.”
  • Jupiter in Virgo – concentrates on the little things – believes reward is not to be found in the big picture, but in the detail.  Beliefs tend to be reduced to a sense of duty, which must not be shirked.  You’re likely to find this character as the tiresome civil servant or tax collector who leaves no stone unturned.  Equally this character may an overseas relief worker or missionary schoolteacher.  “Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.”
  • Jupiter in Libra – is polite and politically correct – beliefs tend toward that which will bring beauty, justice, and harmony – the focus is the other – never on the self.  You’re likely to find this character as the wise judge, the diplomat smoothing over troubled waters in order to avoid war, or as a reformer advocating social improvements to bring some modicum of fairness to a world that is (regrettably) inherently unfair.  “There are two sides to every story.”
  • Jupiter in Scorpio – has an extraordinary depth of understanding of human nature which (sadly) may not always be used to the best ends – beliefs tend toward anything that gets to the bottom of things. Yet this character is likely to be very secretive and unwilling to share.  Thus this character will likely be found in solitary pursuits such as research or detective work or even as a psychologist or occultist.  “There’s always more than meets the eye.”
  • Jupiter in Sagittarius – is philosophic and idealistic – believes in man’s ability to move mountains through faith and hope – vision, trust, and intuition are the keys to a better life. You’re as likely to find this character in the hallowed halls of academia, a noted author, or a highly revered spiritual leader.  “Tomorrow- tomorrow – there’s always tomorrow.”
  • Jupiter in Capricorn – is constrained and conservative – beliefs (which tend to be dogmatic) must incorporate goals that aim toward achievement of something ‘real’ and of lasting worth.   Because of the always present need for maintaining social position and garnering respect, this character is likely to be highly visible in the business community or politics or church.  “Nothing a little elbow grease won’t fix.”
  • Jupiter in Aquarius – is focused on understanding through logic and science – beliefs (which are almost always dogmatic) are naturally idealistic and forward thinking – and usually aimed at improving humanity.  You’re likely to find this character as a political reformer, scientist, or mathematician.  He is the consummate absent minded professor or zanny individualist.  “There must be a better way.”
  • Jupiter in Pisces – has a penchant for spirituality and is easily influenced by dogma and piety.   Beliefs tend toward the expansion of universal values – peace on earth – good will toward men – compassion for those less fortunate – turn the other cheek.   They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and this might be the by-word for a character with this placement.  She is likely to be found as a healer, psychic, well-meaning campaigner for the poor. Belief system may be hazy – hard to pin down much less exemplify.  “Please, let me help you.”

The Makings of a Good Character- Individuation and the Art of Change

character-arc-1During the course of a novel or film, a good character needs to change.

We all want to be a better person.  Change, transformation, is a constant in our lives and if you can impel some kind of emotional change within your character, it creates an arc of behavior and adds another dimension to who he or she is. Syd Field – The Screenwriter’s Workbook

While there many paradigms through which you might view character arc change, the one that appeals most to me is based on the concept of Jungian ‘individuation’.

I will try to explain the term “individuation” as simply as possible. By it I mean the psychological process that makes of a human being an “individual”- a unique, indivisible unit or “whole man.” Carl Jung

While admittedly this journey to one’s destiny – or ‘true self’ – is a life-long process, it does move in fits and starts;   not all the phases occur chronologically.  They can overlap each other or run parallel.

The individuation process begins with becoming conscious of the Persona, the mask we take on in our every day life.[1] After this we become conscious of the Shadow, the repressed characteristics of the ego.[2] Then we become conscious of the Anima, the inner woman in each man, or the Animus, the inner man in each woman.[3] Then the image of the old wise man (the Conscious), or the old wise mother (the Unconscious) appears, and if the union of the two, or the Coniunctio, is successful the experience of the Self occurs.

In terms of psychological astrology, this process is well-characterized by what is referred to as ‘growing into your sun sign’.

Sun sign columns would be much more worthwhile if they began with the underlying premise that the Sun sign represents qualities which you need to build and develop in a constructive way in order to become who you uniquely are… Howard Sasportas – The Luminaries

This transition might be dramatically depicted by movement from the more negative to the more positive emotions associated with the character’s sun sign:

  • Aries               Bored–afraid–angry–eager–brave–enthusiastic
  • Taurus           Greedy–lethargic-stubborn–mellow–safe-comfortable
  • Gemini           Restless–nervous-curious-interested–informed–proficient
  • Leo                    Humiliated-defensive–wilful–playful–proud–self-assured
  • Virgo                Obsessive–skeptical–competent–modest–productive–helpful
  • Libra                Uncooperative–indecisive–dependent–balanced–engaged–pleasant
  • Scorpio           Vindictive–paranoid–wounded– vulnerable–passionate–powerful
  • Sagittarius    Disbelieving–righteous–benevolent–expansive–jovial–optimistic
  • Capricorn      Isolated–inadequate–anxious–determined–focused–successful
  • Aquarius        Aloof-rebellious–tolerant– altruistic – objective-open
  • Pisces               Guilty–passive–inspired–blissful–elated–compassionate

The emotional trigger for a successful transition from the negative to positive emotions is the Coniunctio which can be viewed astrologically as the successful harmonisation of one’s natal sun (representing conscious thought) and natal moon (representing unconscious instinct) – (See Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas, The Luminaries).  For some this will be easier than for others.ros3

For example, in my novel, The Curve of Capricorn, the sun sign of my heroine, Abby, is Capricorn.

Therefore one of her main (solar) purposes in life is to develop her Capricorn qualities: ambition, authority and determination to achieve and succeed.

True to form, throughout the first half of the novel, Abby’s Capricorn qualities are at the negative end of the spectrum; she feels isolated, inadequate, and anxious.  Accustomed to living in the shadow of her highly powerful and successful (and authoritarian) father, how could it be otherwise?  Achieving personal ambition and authority has never even been a possibility for Abby much less a realistic goal.

With Daddy dead and all that  for which she believes he’s has stood for in tatters, she realises it’s time for her to ‘step up to the plate’.  But a life on auto-pilot hasn’t prepared her for the challenges ahead and initially, instead of success she faces failure and despair.

In order to proceed, she must successfully cobble together (i.e. the Coniunctio) an integrated ‘Self’ from the ashes of her parent’s ruined relationship (symbolised by her natal sun and moon in hard aspect – the square).

Her challenge is to integrate that which she got from (1) her father (Sun in Capricorn) – the need to find enough stability in her outer life so that she can live authentically and not simply conform to societal norms and (2) her mother (Moon in Aries) – the need find the courage to stand up for a cause for the greater good and the conviction to succeed at it despite the personal cost.

If she’s successful, she can save her country as well as the man she loves.

However if she fails, all is well and truly lost.

[1] According to Jung, the Persona is a mask of the collective Psyche, a mask that only appears to have individuality.  In effect, it’s only a clever piece of playacting  – a compromise of the tension that naturally exists between the individual and the community – so that she only appears to fit in.

Astrologically the Persona is symbolised by the MC–IC axis  (4th–10th houses).  For my heroine, Abby, whose MC-IC axis involves Libra/Aries –  this means a constant struggle to find balance between autonomy and compromise.  While she appears (MC) to live in perfect harmony with others, in reality (IC) she has a strong need strong need for personal freedom and autonomy.

[2] Astrologically, the Ego is identified with Saturn which represents the boundaries and structures (both psychological and physical) we put in place in order to keep us whole and safe.  When one’s Saturn functions well, she is organised ad ‘together’ in pursing her goals for success.  When Saturn is not functioning well (the Shadow side), she may find herself beset with (often self afflicted) delays, limitations, blocks, and restrictions.  To the extent she perceives these as unfixable, the more she’ll procrastinate and the deeper she’ll sink into the melancholy that so often afflicts under-performing Capricorns.

[3]  According to Jung, the anima or animus is unconscious or true inner self of an individual (as opposed to the persona or ‘outer’ self).  In the unconscious of a man, the anima find expression as a feminine inner personality and manifests in his dreams as well as his attitudes towards women.  In a woman, the animus is the personification of her masculine tendencies.  As the archetypal masculine symbols within her unconscious, it likewise manifests in dreams and attitudes towards men .

In psychological astrology, (1) the anima is assigned to the eighth house (which represents the intense emotional experiences and encounters that will change us forever) and (2) the animus to the twelfth (which according to Jungian psychologist and astrologer Karen Hamaker-Zondag, is the ‘hidden power in the horoscope’).

My heroine Abby has Uranus in the 12th house and as such, her image of men is of movers and shakers – they shock, shatter, destabilise – for (hopefully) altruistic and humanitarian reasons.  What she doesn’t yet realise is that this is what she herself is meant to do.