Using an ancient philosophy of energy to help you create better characters
The Earth Energyis associated with our survival instinct, our sense of security and well-being. Think of the foundation tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy. When our basic needs are met and our base is balanced, we feel secure, physically and mentally healthy, and we are comfortable in the world. A character with a healthy Earth Energy would be nurturing, welcoming, often maternal. That character’s core belief would be I’m at home here, on this earth, in this place.
When our base is shaky, we’re fearful and anxious. Because we can’t trust that our survival is assured, we tend to see other people or changes we don’t initiate as threats to our security.
Some of the symptoms of imbalance in Earth Energy might be:
- General insecurity, anxiety, worry
- Fears about survival
- Lethargy, sluggishness
- Resistance to change
- Excessive materialism
- Inability to laugh at oneself
An imbalanced Earth Energy results in a mindset of scarcity and fear. These characters often believe that the world is out to get them and that they have no chance of succeeding in any endeavor.
Earth Energy is associated with the color red, the element earth, and the musical note C. Its primary purpose is to ground us so that we embrace our right to exist. It’s the source of our sense of security, our instinct to survive, and our need to express personal power and exert influence over our lives and surroundings.
When Earth Energy isn’t balanced—whether it’s over- or under-active, it will lead to certain clusters of behavior. If your character hoards food or resources, then other symptoms of Earth Energy imbalance should appear as well. Maybe she’s convinced that people are trying to steal from her, or to push her out of her home or an organization or the family. Maybe she clings to habits that aren’t healthy or advantageous simply because she’s fearful of change.
Classic Earth Energy Imbalanced Characters
Fairy Godmothers are wonderful examples of well-balanced Earth Energy. So, too, is Glinda the Good Witch. In fact, any kind and wise magical being is an example of Earth Energy that functions properly. Many protagonists are also operating from a healthy Earth Energy—Cinderella and Snow White, for example, show signs of having a very healthy Earth Energy.
But when the Energy is over- or under-active….
Remember King Midas? Grasping and greedy to the Nth degree! What else can you say about a man who wants every single thing he touches to be gold? You might want to read that story again while keeping an eye open for the energy clusters incorporated in the king’s behavior. It taught a lesson, but does it fit together? Or do you find discrepancies? How complex is the character of the King? What other Earth Energy symptoms would you include to enhance the depiction of this character?
What about the giant at the top of Jack’s beanstalk? Hoarder of harps and hens and who knows what else. There’s certainly an Earth Energy imbalance there! And we can’t forget Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, that poster child of Earth Energy imbalance.
You can probably think of dozens of other characters from literature with this same imbalance, and you’ll start to notice them everywhere now that you’re aware of the clusters. Go ahead and tell us in the comments about Earth Energy imbalanced characters as you find them.
Questions to ask about your character:
When you discover (or determine) that Earth Energy imbalance is present in your character, take some time to mull over the implications.
- How does Earth Energy imbalance affect your characters senses? Does she have tunnel vision on a particular topic? Does she hear only negative comments? Does she find bitterness in every food? How does she respond to touch? Which smells soothe her and which smells remind her of pain?
- What caused the imbalance in the first place? Was it lifestyle, stress or trauma, a loss of connection to the authentic self? Was it caused by some outside force?
- What other symptoms might be present? Start with the list at the beginning of this post and extrapolate.
How to strengthen the Earth Energy association in your writing
You can reinforce the effect of Earth Energy by using subtle indicators of this imbalance. For example, you might
- Use words throughout your narrative that call to mind the personality qualities–grasping, hoarding, anxious, fearful, angry, etc.
- Use the color red: hair, clothing, furnishings, car, flowers
- Bring in other elements associated with this energy: soil and earth (is your character a gardener?), food, walking barefoot or fear of nature, herbs such as rosemary and sandalwood, root vegetables, and red gemstones
Practice & Prompt
1. Choose any character from your work in progress. Make a list of physical, mental, and Earth Energy characteristics that you’ve already assigned to that character. For example, let’s say you’ve written: smart, athletic, talkative, loves tomatoes, steals loose change at work.
First, consider whether any of those might come from an Earth Energy imbalance. Well, tomatoes are often red, so that might connect. Steals loose change? Hmmm. Now why would your character do that? Does she worry about money? Or does she just like to take things? Does she harbor anger toward her co-workers or employer? Another reason?
And if she does, indeed, steal coins because of a grasping, hoarding, fearful mindset…what else about that Earth Energy imbalance is going on with her? Just how many dimes and quarters does she have buried about her house?
2. Where did her imbalance originate? When and why did the imbalance fluctuate and grow stronger or weaker?
3. Within the context of her story, how might the imbalance be mitigated?
4. What element of your theme is manifested in Earth Energy? How can you use the character’s imbalance to strengthen the theme and vice versa?
One or more of your characters will almost certainly be dealing with Earth Energy imbalance and that’s going to matter a lot in the development of those characters, because each Energy affects all those above it. (These areas are addressed in Parts 2-7 of this series.) If the Earth is blocked, your character will have a plethora of other quirks to build on.
Now that you’ve experimented with ways to use that imbalance to flesh out a character, you’ll want to move on to other characters and their imbalances. Part of the fun of this character building system is watching how the energies dance with and poke at each other.