Happy Halloween! Today I share tips and prompts to screenwriting familial villainy; Every hero needs a villain and in contrast to The Joker villain which I wrote about here, we will take a look at villains hiding in plain sight: family. What’s more terrifying than family trauma? And how do Heroes purge toxic family? Read this 2,000 word post that will strengthen your writing and ideally, the Hero or Heroine inside YOU.
The Adventures of Natalee Arteaga are rich in wisdom and full of close encounters, fantastic enemies, incredible mistakes, plentiful missions, brave speeches, and noble battles. Through it all I’ve conquered external and internal foes with Truth, Revelation, Boundaries, and Transparency. My life has been saved exclusively by Curiosity and Imagination, shielding me from total destruction at someone else’s hand or mine own. What saves your hero inside when the going gets the toughest?
To tailor your villain, first build your hero or heroine. Who is he? What does she believe in? What are their blind spots? When you build the character of your hero/heroine and their weaknesses, build up their equal opposite (or not, but I love how opposites attract!).
I watch lots of Christopher Nolan. I watched Inception three times in a row straight before I figured out the ending.
I FIGURED OUT THE ENDING TO INCEPTION ALL BY MYSELF!
Honestly, I never saw this coming.
I’ve unearthed a real life family villain. An occurrence I never could have written unless I experienced it first hand. If you’re stuck (and even if you’re not) the first place you should look for inspiration is in your own family and go down the list thinking about every single person and how they treat you and make you feel. Ask yourself, Have they passed the integrity test with me? Is there mostly love with a few character defects here and there or more abuse and harm to you than good times?
How could the mind that figured out the ending to Inception take this long to sever this connection to this toxic family member? Every hero has a blind spot! Mind stayed blind for almost 30 years before it could see!
*Peruse the ten links that support severing ties with toxic family here to 1. become familiar with others who have cut ties with overtly and covertly abusive family members and 2. familiarize yourself with other weapons you can use in your story.
You might learn about other forms of abuse that you’ve been subjected to that you had no idea were actually even considered abuse; perhaps it was that normalized. You’ll feel angry about it, and likely ashamed. It’s okay. You didn’t “let it happen” and their abuse on you was NOT your fault! I don’t care what you were told. I’m here with you. We’re okay.
This is my last communication with someone we will call BARF. I’m publishing this for two reasons:
1. Because she immediately disrespected my boundaries after explicitly asking her to honor them so now I’m sharing with the entire world the truth of how she treated me and how ugly she really is. (At least to me she was)
2. Because I didn’t have these words my whole life (this person has a very strong and manipulative personality and ran roughshod over me pretty much all of our interactions and especially when no one else was around when it was even worse) until right now. If anyone else is out there needing these words, I want you to have them and use them. I support all rawness in your letters because it’s part of healing.
My scathing, irate, volatile message below, shortened for brevity:
““Barf”. I now fully understand the shocking extent of your efforts in keeping me alienated from family I could relate to and who would love me and accept me for who I am. [plot twist]
All those invitations you were asked to extend to me throughout the past 30 years that never reached me. The past 14 years I’ve been doing family research looking for family as I sat at your mothers kitchen table with you not uttering a word about my relatives living right in Chicago. You watched me spend an entire lifetime pursuing a livable career in the arts and never connected me to my cousins who shared the same passions, knowing it would make a difference in my life to have contemporaries I could relate to. Years of watching your daughters bully me and letting them get away with it. Covertly abusing me yourself with your own style of abusing power: betraying my boundaries, turning yourself into the victim to devalue my own feelings and autonomy, gaslighting, and other sick tricks until I got wise enough to demand the right to my own boundaries. You care so much about how you look to others and that you look like this staunch believer full of righteousness who prioritizes her family and her faith, because underneath you have an ugly heart that’s sad and jealous and an ugly mind filled with deception, cognitive bias, and familial sadism. You’re a liar. You lie.
You withheld a whole reservoir of familial love I have never known and it has made ALL the difference in the quality of life I have lived in every way possible.
Thinking of doing to [my 6 year old niece] what you did to me is chilling and incomprehensible. I could never treat her the way you treated me my whole life for a fraction of a second. I promise to your God that I am wholeheartedly authentically disgusted by your entire being you make humans call “Barf”. Gross.
[Now that I’m an Aunt myself – It is startlingly clear to me she definitely never loved me.] Our relationship could have been so different and it’s painful to think of how close we could have been and how deeply you have betrayed that potentiality.
I don’t care what contributed to the ugly person you are, you made the wrong choice over and over and over and over again for my entire life while smiling at me trying to look like the Good Samaritan who brought the cold washcloths. I know who you really are now. This is our end.
I don’t allow toxic miserable people in my life, so please stay away from me. [Me explaining this message isn’t to engage with her but to end our connection and move on]
[Me telling her to heed my warning, respect my boundaries, and keep everyone else out of it otherwise I’m going to expose her to other family members and online and more]
I deserve this boundary with you. Never dealing with you again is a gift I give to myself.
Lastly, I want you to know that you didn’t win; Not only do I still have my integrity intact, I never turned into an ugly hateful sabotaging person like you, and I DID get to have a real family after all. I fall in love with something in each new family member I meet and my life is a zillion times richer since the family reunion.
You’re a horrible miserable loser who lost me forever.
I won because I never let you break my spirit, I never gave up on myself, I never lowered myself to your sick level, and I never gave up on my dream of having a real family who loves me for who I really am.
Though I would hope you choose to heal, I don’t care. Your choices will never effect my life ever again and that’s all that matters.”
“Excuse me Natalee, I will disregard your mis conception and forward this to your dad.”
Just so everyone understands incase this happens to you, check out my logical breakdown of what’s happening here.
Firstly, a misconception is a view that is incorrect based on faulty thinking.
All of my reasoning and logic is supported by the facts of the past and what actually happened between us. Not my faulty thinking. You don’t hurt someone and then tell them their pain is just their misconception. Clearly her natural response is gaslighting: manipulating me psychologically into questioning my own sanity by telling me I’M the one who is mistaken. It’s a very simple psychological tool of mental/emotional/psychological fuckery once you get used to it. I didn’t respond to her of course, I blocked her across all platforms including her phone number. #win
Her cognitive bias? (Our thinking has evolved to take shortcuts, but a cognitive bias makes our judgement irrational – there’s a misfiring in the brain causing the person to lose objectivity) Reactance. She reacted in the predictably opposite way as a knee-jerk contrarian. Being uncooperative is her way of taking her power back and therefore, seeing herself as superior over me.
Her illogical reasoning? She’s using an Appeal to Authority. Saying she will “forward this to your dad” tells me her brain’s shortcut to solving her problems are going to be to go to the highest authority she can find and do whatever it takes to manipulate their favor, in this case: it’s my own father. An appeal to authority is not a valid argument, and she completely disregards the empirical evidence I put before her. She’s also now exploiting her relationship with him for unethical favors. She did this to me growing up too.
Using an appeal to authority can be dangerous when that authority is corrupt or wrong, therefore having no bearing upon the argument at hand. She’s taking something completely irrelevant and using it to somehow strengthen her position and intimidate me psychologically.
Also, it’s incredibly clear in her response her total inability to handle this adult confrontation on her own, still attempting to infantilize me like she’d always done. #boring
What does your family villain do to your hero or heroine psychologically? How does it go down when someone tries to stand up for themselves? How much can they take? Are they ever able to be truly free?
When I woke up the next morning I felt an entire burden was lifted off my life and I could see clearly and crisply into my future. It shines that much brighter now, every single time I do something great for myself. What feelings have you gone through? What is your hero going through?
While this is my scathing, irate, and raw message to this person who hurt me so deeply, now that I’ve confronted her and removed her from my entire life FOREVER, I am truly at peace. Meaning, I’m not angry anymore. At all. I put any vitriolic response to her abuse into that message and there is where it stays. All the negativity has left me completely, and I feel truly blessed to now have the grace of peace in my heart. She can’t upset me anymore, not with smear campaigns or anything else. She can’t hurt me. I’m free.
I feel secure and stable and happy. It hurt to do it, believe it or not, but this is what Heroes do. And this is what your hero needs to do: RISE above the villain.
In the very end of your story, your heroine or hero MUST RISE ABOVE THE VILLAIN.
Set your hero or heroine free at the end, not necessarily of the villain if their story continues, but of the ability of the villain to hurt your hero/heroine.
I choose to be Batman every single day. Make no mistake, this is my choice. I don’t want to go low, I want to be Batman! Let me share a story of what happens when YOU or your hero makes the sad choice and let the villain win….
In the Injustice Series the Joker manipulates Superman into killing Lois Lane and their unborn child. Superman, unhinged, goes to kill the Joker and has him by the collar.
The Joker, however, doesn’t plead for his life, or say any witticisms… he just laughs maniacally. This makes Superman angrier and angrier…
The Joker is of course laughing his fucking ass off because he knows he has won over Superman. He has proved his ultimate philosophy and dies cackling in his completely validated illusory superiority!
I can’t let that happen to me! Don’t let it happen to you!
You will have to make these choices for your characters and in your life too!
Choose wisely, let go of toxicity without and within. That’s the secret to elevation of Heroes and Heroines akin. Happy reading and writing for the silver screen. But most of all, Happy Halloween!!!