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Trying to understand character's wound and lie/misbelief


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
I want to add, I think the misbelief / wound perspective on character arcs is fairly recent. It's a more zeroed-in version of the character flaw. If you ignore it and write to a character flaw instead, you'll end up with wounds and misbeliefs, but they won't be quite as refined and spelled out. The "flaw" might be that the MC is "arrogant," but skipping the analysis of why they're arrogant, or what specific idea is shaping this version of arrogance to be a problem.

The misbelief/wound perspective is supposed to help you add depth to the flaw model. If you can pinpoint the idea that is the misbelief, you can go further with your discussion of the character's themes. You can build on that idea and address it directly.

But it can also be a bit much. It can be a bit too defining, and clinical, depending on the story. People are messy. There might realistically be a slew of bad ideas behind the MC's arrogance, and their wounds might not seem like much of a wound to anyone else. To me - and this probably isn't fair to say - it also calls to mind this idea of a teen drama, where characters start shouting at each other about their home lives. "Your parents were controlling? Well mine abandoned me! That's my wound. That's why I'm like this!" If you're not careful, on the nose thinking leads to on the nose writing.

In real life, I do think just about everyone does have this one big arc of coming to terms with the issues they develop with their upbringing, which I read somewhere usually resolves in your 30s. But is that what every book is about? The misbelief/wound perspective will have you think of starting a new job as a "wound," and a learning curve as a "misbelief." I mean, I guess it works, but....
I think it can be very powerful to delve deeper into a character, their background and what wound or misbelief they might be carrying around with them because it’s what makes many of us human - and in narrative form, a character with a strong arc in my opinion has a wound or a misbelief that they need to overcome. Tolkien was no exception and wrote many characters where their misbelief or flaws gave them a stronger arc.