Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Zinovy's Struggle

I’m following some interesting chatter about Zinovy online. ( Readers are discussing Zinovy’s need to be in control. They identify with that drive. It’s a common human desire. The discussion is leading me to consider my character’s motivation.

Every protagonist must have a motivation, or a need, strong enough to make the story important to the reader. When the need is thwarted by an antagonist, or an antagonistic situation, conflict is created, and the story develops out of that conflict.

Now that I know Zinovy’s story (I’ve read the book!), I have a much clearer idea of what motivates him and how the conflict develops than I did before the story was fully created in my mind.

Zinovy’s immediate need, in the beginning, is simply to survive. At the beginning of the book, the whole crew is focussed on surviving. This is Zinovy’s “felt” need. But beneath that felt need is a stronger motivator that defines Zinovy. It’s connected with his need to survive, but it comes from a deeper place in his psyche. This need is the need to be in control.

All humans, if they are sentient at all, feel the need to be in control. This need is what prompts the two-year-old to say, “I can do it myself.” It’s what drives all human accomplishment, in the end. It’s a selfish motivator, based on either fear or pride, or usually a combination of the two.

I need to be in control because I need to protect myself from the threats that come from the fallen world around me. My desire to be in charge of my own protection, rather than trusting to the protection of another, is driven not only by fear but also by pride. We say (to God, or anyone else who will listen), “I can do it myself.” We write songs stating proudly, “I did it my way.”

When Zinovy’s life is threatened by forces he cannot control, the conflict that develops creates an even deeper tension than simply the tension created by the need to survive. His independence (from God and others) is challenged. His pride is hurt. He is no longer the master of his fate.

So Zinovy experiences tension on both these levels. He needs to survive, and he needs to be the one assuring his survival will happen. The physical and the psychological meld in this immediate conflict.

But all humans are also driven by a deeper need than even the need to be in control. And this is what makes the story so powerful.

More on this topic next post.

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