A Symbol of the Traumatic Past

Some traumatic event in the past motivated your hero and/or mentor. Now your story is all about your hero and/or mentor taking action to redeem him or herself from this traumatic past.

In “Home Alone,” this traumatic past is hinted at when the hero feels neglected and isolated from his family. In “Tootsie,” this traumatic past is hinted at through the hero’s arrogance towards others, especially towards women.

One way to constantly remind audiences about this traumatic past is to give multiple hints about this. In “Ready Or Not,” a secondary character witnesses a brutal and horrifying murder committed by his own family members. To make matters worse, he called for his family members to find this man for them to kill and now he feels guilty about doing so.

One way this guilt is symbolized is now this secondary character drinks too much. Another way is that he tells his brother’s wife that she doesn’t belong in their family, but adds that it’s actually a compliment because it hints that he doesn’t like himself and his own family.

Yet another way we see this secondary character deal with his traumatic past is when he’s given a chance to call his family members to find and kill the hero, but he allows her to escape before he calls them.

A final way we see this secondary character dealing with his traumatic past is when his family is about to kill the hero, but he poisons their wine so the hero can escape.

In “Abominable,” the hero’s traumatic past is the loss of her father. This is symbolized in two ways. First, the hero constantly looks at pictures of her father and the trip he wanted to take with her so she could see different sights. Second, the hero constantly plays the violin because her father played the violin.

Initially this connection between the father and the violin is a mystery that we uncover little by little, but when we do, we finally realize the significance of the hero’s attachment to her father through her love for the violin.

Once you know the traumatic event that motivates your hero and/or mentor, you can constantly create scenes that force these characters to choose different actions. Based on what they do, it reveals another hint of how they’re trying to make up for their haunted past.

In “Abominable,” the hero is saddened by the loss of her father, but she’s devastated when her violin breaks. Normally a broken violin isn’t a huge emotional tragedy but because this violin represents her last connection to her father, it’s a devastating event.

In “The Karate Kid,” the hero’s mentor lost his entire family due to an accident. This is what motivated him to help the hero because the hero is now like a son.

The past drives the motivation for your hero and/or mentor in the present. Make sure your hero and/or mentor have a haunted past because when they do, you’ll find it’s much easier to write the rest of your story to force them to face their past over and over again and deal with it in different ways.

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