Character Arc

The Lie

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Emotional trauma is terrible to experience, but in a cruel twist of fate, the trauma itself is not always the worst part . . . it’s what hides within a wound: the lie (also known as a false belief or misbelief). The lie is a conclusion reached through flawed logic. Caught in a vulnerable state, the character tries to understand or rationalize his painful experience, only to falsely conclude that fault somehow lies within.

It might sound melodramatic, but this situation is not unique to fiction; it is a familiar reflection of how people process painful events in real life. Think about it—when something bad happens, something we don’t understand, it’s human nature for us to try to make sense of it. In doing so, we often turn our questions inward: Why didn’t I see this coming? Why didn’t I act sooner? Or perhaps in the case of disillusionment: Why did the system (or government, society, God, etc.) fail me? This usually leads to a form of self-blame or the belief that had we been more worthy, chosen differently, trusted someone else, paid more attention, or better safeguarded ourselves, a different outcome would have resulted.

Because the lie is tied to disempowering beliefs (that the character is unworthy, incompetent, naïve, defective, or lacks value), a path of destruction is left in its wake. The lie affects the character’s level of self-worth and how he views both the world and himself. It causes him to hold back, making it difficult for him to love fully, trust deeply, or live life without reservation, and will eventually lead to unmet needs.


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