At the M&M Conference, special guest speaker Michael Hauge presented a workshop called Six Stage Plot Structure. He gave us a screenplay-based outline to use in developing our novels, and explained the difference between the "outer journey" - the physical challenges facing our characters - and the "inner journey" - the growth and development of our characters - with a special emphasis on romance. This was extremely helpful to me; afterwards, I was able to pin down numerous holes and flaws in my current work in progress. Using my new tools, I will be able to repair them; never again will I attempt to write a book without at least a simple outline.
What intrigued me most about the workshop, though, was Michael's discussion of our hero's inner journey: the transformation from living fully in one's Identity (his false self that he presents to the world) to living fully in one's Essence (who he has the potential to be if he can find the courage). Of course, the outer journey and the inner journey intertwine. But there is a constant tug-of-war between Identity and Essence. And the only satisfactory conclusion for our characters is living in Essence. Because after glimpsing Essence, Identity is no longer fulfilling.
This was also extremely useful to me where my novel writing is concerned. Because once I was able to pinpoint my character's inner journeys, I could then correlate them to their outer journeys; as Michael explained, they must be structured similarly. In other words, I am rewriting my entire book. I will be able to use much of my previous material, but I am also making some major changes. As a result, my finished book will be vastly improved. Thank you, Michael Hauge!
Perhaps even more important, Michael's workshop gave me pause as I considered my own inner journey, the one that has taken place in my personal life. I thought back ten years, when I was living in the Identity of wife and mother, so emotionally shut down that I was incapable of even knowing, much less expressing, what was missing from my life and my soul. Ancient wounds still inflicted pain on me me; deep-rooted beliefs that prevented me from even considering making changes. I'm still not sure how I found the strength to let go of all that. But once I glimpsed Essence, there was no turning back.
Like the characters in my novel, I am constantly shifting between Identity and Essence. I like to think that Essence is winning, but every now and then something happens - something bad, or something good - which causes me to retreat temporarily into my hollow shell of Identity. But, as Michael explained, one can be safe and unfulfilled, or fulfilled and scared shitless; in the end, there is no middle ground. So I must continue to find healing from the past hurts and let go of the old ways of thinking that hold me back.
Onward into Essence.