I have a penchant for copying things I see that make sense to me and saving them in my "Characters" file. This is one of those pieces. I wish I had a name to put to this information for you because the information is good and I'd like to give credit to the person who came up with it.
A character's "essence" is who that character becomes at the end of the book. It's who they finally have the courage to become because of the journey they've taken over the course of the book.
For a writer to create a character's inner journey (or character arc), the author must answer these questions:
1. LONGING – What is my hero’s longing OR need?
What is the deeply held desire that the hero is paying lip service to because they’re too afraid to go after it? This is usually something that is missing from hero’s life.
A character's longing is usually what they consciously want. (What they know they want but are too afraid to go after.) Their need is what they unconsciously want. (What they don't really know they want.)
2. WOUND – What is my hero’s wound?
A wound is an unhealed source of continuing pain. It usually happens to the hero before the story begins (setup) that they act like they’ve gotten over, but which deep down is still festering. This could be single event OR some ongoing situation.
3. BELIEF – What does my hero now believe about the way the world works?
If a parent treats a kid badly, the kid then believes the parent must know he/she is evil or unworthy. What does your hero believe about themselves because of their wound?
4. FEAR – What is my hero’s fear?
A character's fear is always linked to his/her belief about how the world works.
“If they see what I truly am they will treat me...”
5. IDENTITY – What is my hero’s identity?
The Identity is the mask the hero presents to the world in order to protect him from the fear that grows out of the belief that grows out of the wound that happened so far back the character thinks it doesn’t matter anymore.
This is the false self the character presents to the world to protect him/her from ever experiencing the pain from the wound.
6. ESSENCE –What is my hero’s essence?
The Essence is what’s left after you strip the mask away. A person’s “truth”. Who the character would be if he/she wasn’t protecting themselves with their identity.
Who does my hero have the potential to become if they are courageous enough?
So in a nutshell...the inner journey is the characters journey/tug of war from living in their identity to their essence.
That tug of war is the character’s inner conflict.
The only way for the main character to get what he/she really wants is to step out of his/her identity and live in their essence.
A book is considered a tragedy if the main character never shifts from living in his identity to living in his essence.