August 2, 2016

The Expert, Victim, Flaw formula

I once heard film producer Joshua Russell explain that the lead character of any film should always have three characteristics; expert, victim and flaw.

Take Batman as a starting point.

Batman is an expert at fighting crime. He’s a victim because his parents were murdered, and in a bizarre twist he somehow fell in a bat cave. He’s flawed because he cannot unmask himself, either as Batman or in his personal life.

I really enjoyed the television series Dexter, which is on Netflix. Dexter is a respected blood-spatter analysis in Miami, who also hunts-down serial killers by night.

He’s an expert at what he does, both by day and by night. He’s a victim because his mother was chopped up in front of him when he was three. And he’s flawed because no matter how hard he tries he cannot stop killing people. The impulse, or the ‘dark passenger’ as he calls it, never fully goes away.

Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption is a law expert, and apparently also an expert at digging tunnels. He’s a victim because he was wrongly given two consecutive life sentences for a murder he didn’t commit. And he’s flawed because his good intentions constantly get the better of him, landing him in trouble with the guards and other inmates.

Let’s look at an example that does not fit the expert, victim, flaw mould.

James Bond is an expert all-right, at apparently everything. Driving cars, playing poker, hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship, attracting women. Is he a victim? Not in most of the stories. An element of his past was introduced inSkyfall, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a victim. And is he flawed? A few minor flaws come to mind in the more recent movies, but nothing major.

Victim and flaw are mostly absent, which makes every James Bond film entirely predictable.

The expert, victim, flaw formula also applies to your own story.

Most business stories are strong on expert, weak on victim, and absent of flaws.

Flaws are important because we recognise our own flaws in the flaws of the main character. We don’t run round Miami by night chopping up serial killers, but we recognise the personality flaw of succumbing to an impulse.

If you never tell people about your flaws you cannot let people connect with you on a personal level.

You can’t connect to someone who has their guard up all the time. It’s true in personal relationships. It’s true in the movies. And it’s true in your stories.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.