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The obstacle of self-identity

Looking at WOARO through the lense of “The Science of Storytelling.”

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

I’ve been thinking a lot about my WOARO model of story and Will Storr’s The Science of Storytelling.

He says:

A character’s struggle, as we’ve discovered it so far, has been between themselves and the external world. They inhabit a model of the world, inside their skulls, that they experience as reality. Because that model is flawed, their ability to control the real, external world is harmed. When chaos strikes, their model will begin to break down. They’ll slowly lose control and this will bring them into further dramatic conflict with the people and events around them.

Mapping this concept over WOARO, I’d say the character’s want remains the same.

They want an external goal (the treasure, the relationship, to survive the monster) or an internal one (to be loved, to reconcile with a dead parent, to control).

The obstacle for them is their flawed version of the world—which will have repercussions not only on their external relationships (“who are you?”), but also their internal relationship with themselves (“who am I?”).

Their definition of their identity will help shape their journey through the story. If you break the story into separate sections or acts, then each step could be focused on that reassessment.

For example:

  1. Who am I? I’m a person who doesn’t help others in need.
  2. Who am I? I’m a person who helps others in need, as long as I risk nothing of myself.
  3. Who am I? I’m a person who doesn’t help others in need because I’ll suffer the consequences.
  4. Who am I? I’m a person who selflessly helps others, no matter what the consequences.

“Because….” could also follow each of these that helps further define each act: “I selflessly help others, no matter what the consequences, because without it, the world because a worse place.” (This also helps define your theme.)

I’m sure there is more to this, but that’s an initial consideration of the two story models.

David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.