How Do You Like My Moustache Now?
If you haven't yet had the pleasure of watching SyFy's Wynonna Earp, I'm jealous - because I'd love to watch it again for the first time!
I confess, when I first heard the show's name, my reaction was an immediate hard-pass. Despite being a country girl by birth and at heart, I moved along in my life without giving it a second thought.
Fortunately, some friends set me straight on Twitter. (Thanks, Geonn Cannon!). Now go hit Netflix and enjoy bingeing the first season. Then come back and enjoy the rest of this post without getting anything spoiled...
Okay, you're up to speed? Very good.
And you're welcome.
The delightful and enigmatic Doc Holliday, with his amazing stache, is responsible for the title of this blog post.
He's also the perfect example of why this show works so well. He's not shoehorned by the writers into the role of a villain, hero, or even anti-hero (though he generally lives closer to that last category). The external conflicts he has to deal with perfectly highlight his internal conflicts, and each one forces a reveal of his character's TRUTH.
The very best conflict arises from the intersection of what a character needs to believe and the inevitable antagonism caused by another character's truth. In season one, Doc's driving motivation is that he hates the Earp family. Each choice he makes rests on that belief. He needs to make someone pay for the misery he endured for decades, and he hasn't forgiven his best friend - Wyatt Earp - for what he sees as abandoning him. Wyatt's dead, but his heirs are still around to blame.
So where did this TRUTH intersect with Doc's antagonist in season 1? Wynonna is the hero of the show, but she's definitely the antagonist in Doc's story. She's the Earp heir, and the only accessible target for his revenge. The problem for Doc is that every time the plot throws the two of them together, she's a mirror he has to look into; until finally he realizes, and speaks aloud, the truth that she IS him.
How so? Wynonna hates herself for a choice she made that cost her everything, a choice that went sideways. She's bent on revenge, as much to avoid having to face her own guilt as to get justice. When Doc can no longer believe that the Earp family is his enemy, his truth is disrupted in one powerful moment.
Notice that as soon as this happens, a new antagonist is presented to Doc. This time, his motivation is aligned with Wynonna's goals; but his TRUTH hasn't really changed! His new motivation - make the Stone Witch pay - comes from the same foundational belief that he has been wronged and thus someone must pay. The disruption caused by his revelation about Wynonna gets us closer to that immovable foundation. His choices remain consistent with this now-clarified TRUTH.
This is why I don't use goals or motivation as one of the five key story elements. They can, and should, change based on context, circumstance, and relational shifts. Real character growth can even happen without a shift in TRUTH. This is what keeps a character consistent, even when choices/actions over time seem at complete odds (i.e., attempt to sick a demonic stalker on Wynonna, then save Wynonna a few episodes later).
And when that truth does change? That's when you know you've hit the pivotal moment in your story. In the climax, a character succeeds in changing the world to match his/her truth, or his/her truth is broken by the world. Either way, the character's world is never the same.
Can you think of an example of each type of resolution? World-changing and truth-changing? Comment below!