Jun 21, 2006

What Makes People Change?

I've been thinking about the moment in every story when the hero makes either a life-altering decision, or has a life-altering realization, or both. The epiphany that allows the hero to change, or motivates them to remain steadfast against the temptation to surrender.

Again and again, I find myself dissatisfied with these moments in the stories I tell (and elsewhere). Again and again, I find myself working and reworking and reworking this moment. And I've been thinking, I've been realizing: the more real I am able to make the characters, the more alive, the more difficult it becomes to believe that they'd change, or have a realization that strong, all in a fictionalized, focused moment. Perhaps I do not believe that people have these realizations. Perhaps I too often doubt that people make these hard choices while the time is still ripe.

Yet, I refuse to be that cynical. It does not sit well with me, and not only because it would trap my work in art houses, at best, and I want to reach a wide range of people, not just intellectuals and movie buffs. I want to believe that people can, and do, make these decisions, do have these realizations, can have these moments where they take charge of fate. I want to believe that I have them myself, and may have another someday. I want to believe that I am here because of such moments. But they are so hard to recognize, so hard to dramatize -- without falling back on formula, without simply fullfilling accepted plot expectations.

I beleive my mind will be focused on these moments for some time. Perhaps from now on. They are the atoms. It is obvious. It is no revelation. All must come from them. I feel it. I feel it like a thorn in my mind. A nagging problem to be solved. A place to find another piece of myself as a storyteller and a person. What is my answer to the question: "What Makes People Change?"

What will make people change? What will motivate people question their reality and answer their dreams, or question their dreams and answer to reality? Where do these realizations come from? Where does the bravery to change come from? How can those small moments be condensed, focused, and dramatized into a single, powerful movement? A moment with a hero, an inspiration. A moment with a real person, doing the extraordinary? How do I believe that happens?

I don't have the answer. But having seized on the question is exciting.