Writing Advice

Erikson’s Initiative Versus Guilt

I’m a little late with this, but better late than never.  Here’s this week’s Writer’s Wednesday post.

We’re moving on to the next stage in Erikson’s developmental theory.  Initiative versus guilt.  This is what kids ages three to five (or so) are working on.  It is an extension of the terrible twos.  Kids entering this stage have figured out that they can make independent decisions about things.  Now they are working on figuring out what to do with that newfound independence.  How do they decide what they want to do, because they can decide that?  How do they decide what they like and don’t like, because they can do that?  That famous “I want to do it all by myself” is there in heaping portions, and yet they struggle to figure out what it is they want to do, or not do.

When kids work this conundrum out successfully, they have developed the skill of initiative.  You know, that self-starting, go get them attitude.  They have learned to make decisions independently and then how to follow through with those decisions.

If kids cannot solve this puzzle successfully, they struggle with completing tasks, making the decision to do something (even as they get upset for someone else stepping into do it for them), and a sense of guilt for not being able to do things for themselves.

Let’s apply this stage to our character development.  This character is one who may struggle to do anything without support and/or direction.  Who will struggle with a burden of guilt for needing to have someone else get them started on things, or keep them going.  The character may not think outside of the box well.  The ultimate follower.  Now, imagine a situation in which the character cannot respond this way.  Where the character has no choice but to learn this skill and solve this stage of development.  Can you see the conflicts, struggles, failures, and eventual victories as your character masters the ability to find their own initiative?  It makes for some great plot points and the start of a good character arc.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes for you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.