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Monday, May 2, 2011

Id, Ego, Super Ego

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Id, Ego, and super ego, what an amazing concept. The following is my interpretation of the Id, Ego, and Super Ego so feel free to disagree. (I may chastise you and tell you that you are wrong, floggings may follow and torture but don't worry it won't last long)

Id is the inner child of a person. It is the part of us that wants to feel good, it is the part of us that acts on the pleasure principle. It is the disorganized part of us. This part of us begins at birth.

The super ego is the part of us that is structured, follows rules relentlessly. The super ego aims for perfection. It is our conscious. The super ego represents our parents, teachers, religious leaders.

As you can see with the super ego and id there is constant conflict. It is a battle that rages within us as one tries to overcome the other. That is why there is also the ego. Without the ego nothing would get done.

The ego acts according to the reality principle. The ego tries to console the id while being rational and at times must mask reality for the id. (This leads us to the subconscious which we will discuss later.) It plays a balancing act of allowing the id to have pleasure but at the same time realizing that there must be order. It is being realistic about short term pleasure and long term goals. So it has a really tough job of serving three masters: the id, the super ego, and the outside world.

When creating our characters it is important to understand the inner conflicts the character is having and to help the reader see these inner conflicts. For example think of Boromir as he is trying to get the ring from Frodo. He loses control and is willing to do anything to get the ring (Id) afterwards he realizes what he has done and is crying, feeling as if he has ruined everything, no hope, in despair, hates himself (Super Ego). Finally at the end when he is dying and Strider is talking to him. He finds peace and realizes that there is hope and that he did not fail (ego). You see the ego balances the feelings of greed with the feeling of failure and self hate to gain a rational perspective and peace.

How do you write inner conflict? Is it important to have this inner conflict in the book? How can inner conflict help us show change in our characters?


  1. Interesting stuff! My id and super ego like to go shopping together. It's a real mess when they do.

  2. i think it is great to have such a textured character...and you may only get slices in each book, or hints of more to come...i would say take your time to play it out but give enough to make the client relatable...

  3. Oh yeah! I love this stuff. For me, just by knowing my character's internal conflict (ego and id) I can make their actions and reactions more real. I really delved in deep with this last story before I wrote the first draft and it made a big difference knowing a head of time.

  4. Wow, it's easy to see that my super ego rules my life for the most part. My id needs to speak up more often!
    Knowing this conflict can help in creating realistic characters! Thanks!

  5. Nice. I love the example. I always try and give characters the inner depth without making them seem wishy-washy or weak because of it. I find that as long as I can explain their actions within their character it is realistic. The inner conflict is a great way to show character development and I think it is important in a lot of novels.

    Boromir is one of my all time favorite characters. I think that another good example is Haymitch from The Hunger Games. He is often torn between his Id, Ego, and Super Ego.

  6. "Id needs a time out," said the Super Ego.

  7. My protagonists have inner conflict, but the ending of the fight is not always peace.

  8. Thanks all for the great comments. I like how this has turned out. Welcome Helen.

  9. What a great way of analyzing our characters. I do character worksheet before writing the first draft, so I know everyone's inner conflict. It helps so much with setting up the story.

  10. This reminds me of one my classes in college- a group in the class was supposed to expound on this whole idea so they did a little skit of two missionary companions and an investegator- if I remember right the Id and Super Ego were the companions and the Ego was investegator- it was pretty funny to watch Id and Super ego lash out at each other while trying to talk to the ego- it was a fun creative way to make this concept more clear. I think it would be important to show the inner struggles of characters- I think it would make them seem more real to the readers, the more real the characters are the more people can relate and want to keep reading!

  11. Thanks for dropping by my blog! Appreciate it..

    Duncan In Kuantan

  12. Interesting way of looking at Boromir (and characters in general). :-)

  13. Hi,

    A character without inner conflict rarely grabs a reader, and one whom resists change comes across as either a rebel or an arrogant so-and-so. Not that I believe all characters should change persona entirely, as so oft seen within category romances. After all, no person is perfect and if one found imagine how boring that person would be to read about.

    Subtle change of character is the answer, with realisation key to self-awareness of past behaviour, mistakes etc., and amends made accordingly and within character profile.


    1) cruel bent lessened and prone to think before acting, though stern countenance nonetheless. ;)

    2) rake conscious of inner desires beyond that of mere lust: oh my God, in love! What punishment is this, and the lady seeming uninterested?

  14. Very cool way of looking at it! I am learning to decide on inner conflicts individually for each character before I start, also. It's fascinating to watch the development of inner struggles, but knowing where it is going sure helps me have a more direct route to the end goal.


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