The Mandalorian: A Mini-Study in Character Transformation

Character growth is an important part of a well-told story. Readers and viewers like to see a character change within the framework of the character’s personality, nature, and behavior. The Mandalorian, Din Djarin, (aka Mando), superbly played by Pablo Pascal, exemplifies character growth during the course of Seasons 1 and 2 of The Mandalorian. He’s on a hero’s journey and that journey is changing him.

When Mando reveals his face, his action isn’t capricious nor confusing. He makes a sacrifice of his deepest belief each time he is in the crucible of a dilemma. Sacrifice is an aspect of character change, a heroic action. The Mandalorian Creed bars him from showing his face in sight of another living being, but his situation with Grogu challenges Mando’s belief in the Way. Outside of Mando removing his helmet when he’s alone to do ordinary things like eat, as he does in Season 1, Episode 4 (Chapter 4) Sanctuary, Mando sacrifices a piece of his belief in the Mandalorian Creed each time he removes his helmet and shows his face in order to save Grogu. 

There are three important moments in Seasons 1 and 2 of The Mandalorian when Mando is forced by circumstances to uncover his face. 

Moment 1 occurs in Season 1, Episode 8 (Chapter 8), Redemption, when Mando, stalwart in his belief in the Mandalorian Creed, and near death with a fatal brain injury, at first refuses to let the droid IG11 remove his helmet to save his life. IG11 isn’t a living being, thus Mando allows the droid to remove his helmet and heal his brain injury. IG11 provided a solid resolution to Mando’s dilemma, and by the end of that episode, Mando loses his hatred of droids. There it is—character change.

Moment 2 occurs in Season 2, Episode 4 (Chapter 12), The Siege, after Moff Gideon’s Dark Troopers take Grogu (aka Baby Yoda, aka the Child), Mando gathers a team and they set out to rescue Grogu, but first they need the location code of Moff Gideon’s ship and the only way to get it is to infiltrate a secret Imperial remnant base, a mining hub, run by ex-ISB (Imperial Security Bureau) and access the computer containing the location codes of Imperial starships. 

With the help of New Republic Marshall Cara Dune, Mando recruits his old enemy, the felon Mayfield, an ex-Imperial sharpshooter serving time on a prison planet.

 Accessing the location code database requires a face scan. Neither ex-rebel shocktrooper, Cara Dune, nor Guild assassin Fennec Shan, wanted by the ISB, nor Boba Fett, who expects his face would be recognized, can risk it. Mando volunteers to accompany Mayfield, both of them disguised as Imperial guards, to deliver highly volatile rhydonium to the base and get their chance at accessing the computer.

Once they make it to the base and are able to get to the computer, Mayfield sees an officer he once served under and fears being recognized. He refuses to enter the room. Determined to get the location code, Mando says he’ll do it. Mayfield reminds him his face will be scanned, but Mando will take any risk to rescue Grogu from Moff Gideon. 

He attempts the scan with the Imperial helmet on, and it fails. He then removes the helmet, exposing his face, and is successfully scanned. He gets the location code, but you could see his discomfort. When an officer confronts him, he has no choice but to face him. Once again, circumstance force him to break the Creed.

Moment 3, Season 2, Episode 8 (Chapter 16), The Rescue. Mando rescues Grogu from Moff Gideon and the time has come to deliver Grogu to a Jedi Master. He and Grogu are about to be separated, perhaps forever. For Mando, it’s like a father giving up his son. This was a heart-wrenching moment. Grogu wants to see the face of the man who has kept him safe against the odds and Mando, without hesitation, takes off his helmet and lets Grogu see him for the first time.

These three transformative moments mark an important turn in Mando’s character, and result from at least two previous “setup” sequences.

In Season 2, Episode 3, (Chapter 11), The Heiress, Bo Katan tells Mando he’s a Child of the Watch. She explains that the Mandalorians who raised him practice an extreme version of their tradition and are a radical sect. For the first time Mando learns that the Creed isn’t the alpha and omega of Mandalorian life. He rejects what Bo Katan tells him, but he can’t un-hear her words.

In Season 2, Episode 7, (Chapter 15), The Believer, Mando has his belief in the Mandalorian Creed further challenged by Mayfield, who accuses Mando of not being consistent with the Creed he professes to follow, pointing out Mando easily changes the rule when he’s desperate, and stating there’s a difference—either Mando can’t take his helmet off or can’t show his face. Either way, Mando walks a fine line, and between what Bo Katan told him and Mayfield’s cynicism, he’s got something to think about.

In the world of story, there is no growth without some form of sacrifice–psychological, physical, or spiritual, and sacrifice is painful. Having responsibility for Grogu and finding himself between a rock and a hard place in his determination to protect the Child, who is a son to him, Mando is forced to reassess his belief in the Mandalorian Creed and every time he reveals his face it’s done at a cost to that belief. By the time he shows his face to Grogu, he has undergone a definite psychological change in his perspective. 

The Mandalorian bounty hunter we meet in the first episode is a changed man by the end of Season 2. He’s suffered near-death, he’s found himself being a father to and protector of a powerful alien baby, he’s tasked with returning that baby to a Jedi Master, and he’s experienced significant challenge to his core belief in the Mandalorian Way.

We see his psychological change in these two seasons and can expect that Mando’s hero’s journey will transform him—which is what a hero’s journey does to the individual–and why stories like The Mandalorian fascinate us and are wonderful to enjoy and vicariously experience.

a dumb fury of work

Vincent van Gogh described himself as painting “in a dumb fury of work.” In a way, that describes my Nanowrimo experience this year, but I wasn’t nearly as successfully productive, especially since I lost interest in the story. Made it to 35,100 words and gave up. I put the manuscript and all my notes away. Another time perhaps.This was my 11th Nano and the first time I didn’t finish, but I’m fine with it.

The cold creeps into my feet through the wood floors of my 80-year old house, even though I’m wearing snuggly socks. So I prop them on a pillow. I’ve got the heat on so I’m not cold, but my feet gather chill.

I’m mentally “knitting” a new scene for A Fall of Diamonds. I need a stronger sense of it before I write the first word of Prince Laimond’s meeting with the Noraillean ambassador. I’ve made a list of notes for the scene and today’s work is more notes, and if I’m lucky, I may get that first word.

Day 12, Week Two

21,218 words. I get to buy office supplies! My reward for reaching 20,000 words. I get a reward every 10,000 words. Bought new planner stickers for the first 10,000. Figured out how to keep from falling into a slump and keep writing. Taking the Victorian writing style approach. Write about the characters, meander along, be authorial, do long setting descriptions. This is a discovery draft meant for my eyes only, and it doesn’t matter how I write it as long as I get 50,000 words down. Writing this way also helps break the perfection psychosis. A first draft or a discovery draft doesn’t have to be perfect (especially a NaNo draft). It just has to be written.

Day 11, Week Two

19,482 words. Today was tough going and I didn’t think I’d make it. Wrote 1,669 words, dragged myself two words past the daily Nano goal, and the writing was like carrying a sack of cement blocks up a steep hill. I was so glad to reach the top. I’ve imagined a number of scenes, but of course I need more, but can’t seem to find them. I’ve got pages and pages of story notes and I wrote scenes on sticky notes and stuck them to my glass board. On my calendar at the start of the week, I wrote: write BBQ scene. But I have not written that scene yet. Maybe tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo

10,878 words. November 1, got off to a good start! Wrote 2,413 words. Minor issue with editing as I write, but trying hard not to do it. To get started, each morning I do a mental prep–reading the week’s chapter in No Plot, No Problem (I re-read it every time I do NaNo.) and some other miscellaneous reading to get the sound and flow of words through my mind. Reading always sets me to thinking, and I get ideas about the story I’m writing. Then to the actual writing with the hope I make the day’s word goal.

I’m still plotting as I go. I’ve outlined a little, but I tend to pants and plot (or outline) at the same time. Not the best way to go, I think, but my attempts at outlining usually fail, because it takes me a long time to think through the story and I end up not writing much. Don’t like that. I prefer to write first and plot after. I like the reverse outline idea where you write the whole book and then outline it. I’m doing that with A Fall of Diamonds, which I mostly pantsed with a little outlining now and then to figure out another piece of the plot. The manuscript is finished and now I get to see what I have, see what I need to add, what I need to cut, and what needs more development. It’ll be easier to write the synopsis too.

word wrestle

A Fall of Diamonds, 60,667. Doing well with revising the novel. The total word count bounces up and down day to day since sometimes I delete more than I add. Still thinking about fast-drafting The Serene Widow, but maybe not this month (I’d set myself an August 31st deadline–loading the gun as usual to shoot myself in the foot.).

I’ve reached a point in revising where I need to pay purposeful attention to shaping each and every scene. Having a completed first draft makes it possible to get a panoramic view of the whole thing and then narrow down. I’ve got to get a better grasp of what kind of novel I’m writing and in what genre. Historical fantasy is what I think it is, but what’s the core story? Is it a romance or an adventure saga? Right now I know what it’s not. It’s not a mystery or a thriller or horror. I’m leaning heavily toward romance.

I’m in Part Two now. The part that comprises the bulk of the story and must be strongly structured to drive the narrative into Part Three and its eventual conclusion. I have three main characters, three story threads, and the book will be in three parts. I’m looking at 150,000 words, maybe 180,000.

That’s frightening.

Happy writing!

Winner!

Camp NaNo–Yay!

My goal was to edit 20,000 words of A Lamentation of Swans. Final count: 20,843. I could have set it higher, but I was afraid of getting caught in the weeds if I tried for 50,000, and I’ve got other projects going on so I played it safe. May schedule more work on it during another Camp Nano.

I’ve not posted in a while, but I’ve got a list of blog posts to do, just too busy working on manuscripts. I completed the second draft of Loose Daddy, and now I’m starting the third and (I hope) final draft. I’d like to start submitting it to agents in 2021.

What else am I busy with?

o Grinding Time, a novella (or it might become a long short story)

o Writing Emotion, a non-fiction ebook

o A Haunting of Roses, a murder mystery fantasy novel

o A Fall of Diamonds, a fantasy historical romance

o The Serene Widow, a Regency novel

All that will certainly carry me through the end of the year, and it’s fast approaching! I want to have Loose Daddy done and I would be very happy to finish the first draft of A Haunting of Roses. I know that’s too many projects, and I’m spinning between them. Most of my focus is on my literary novel, Loose Daddy, because it’s so close to being completely finished and ready to go. And I may finish Grinding Time, also a literary work.

We’ll see.

attitude is everything

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My mind is as dry as desert sand, but I insist that the muse get off her skinny butt and do something. Work progresses slowly on rewriting The Foreigner. To keep the words building, I set the timer and write for 15 minutes each day to start, and if I surpass the quarter hour, then I keep going. Word count so far is 21,537. I’ve done a lot of cutting from the original version, and I’ve got a new ending now.

I wasn’t happy with the original ending–it was romantic and not real given the circumstances in the story. The story now ends more true to life.

Is the Prologue necessary? I’m thinking no. It does establish an emotional tone and introduces one of the two main characters, and provides motivation too, but it doesn’t raise any questions. It could be woven into the narrative. I like the idea of an epigraph, if I can find the right one.

Today I prepped the fence plot for planting–bellpeppers and something else. Have not decided what. Maybe the banana pepper.

Tomorrow is another day.

first quarter plan

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Sunless again, but my mood today isn’t as sullen as the sky. Yesterday was fairly productive. Hand wrote the bathhouse scene in The Foreigner, a rough rendering, but you can’t improve what you have not written. Going to type it into the manuscript today.

Since February is almost over and the final month of the first quarter of 2020 approaches, I took a look at my first quarter plan:

  • Finish edit and rewrite of The Foreigner by 3/31/2020
  • Edit short story, We Love You More, for atmosphere
  • Edit A Useful Blind (beta read comments) and figure out Act 3
  1. The Foreigner word count 16,697 edited from 31,067 finished 1st draft manuscript. Goal: 40,000 words
  2. We Love You More, 2,618 words. Ready to go.
  3. A Useful Blind, 20,149 words, completed the beta read comments.

The Foreigner has priority and my fingers are crossed that I get it done by March 31. We Love You More is waiting for my first choice market to open in March, and A Useful Blind needs the third act rewritten.

I’ll give myself a B.

not so sure now

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March is coming up and I’m stuck on The Foreigner. The confidence I had in January has evaporated, but I’m still hoping to finish the rewrite by March 31. It’s a dull day outside, the sun smothered somewhere in the sullen February sky. More rain is predicted. The only rain I want is a rain of words stacking up on the novel. The good news is I thought of a new scene this morning. I’m hoping to write it today.

My MacBook Pro is dying.  Too much of my time is wasted watching the beachball spin, think the clock is on its last tick, but I can’t run out and buy a new computer yet. So I’m writing by hand the way I used to. There is something soothing about writing with a simple pen and paper.  It settles my brain and I can stare off into the distance without a blinking cursor in my face. One thing I wish for is to write faster, but I imagine that comes with time.

I have seven short stories ready to go, but the places I want to send them are closed right now. The earliest open-for-submissions date is March 15 for one of them and the rest of the markets on my list have April and May open dates. I made up a submissions calendar so I don’t forget.

I have not posted much here because I’m thinking of changing the blog to something else–publishing non-fiction articles about subjects that appeal to me. I’m thinking one feature article a month. We’ll see.

Happy writing.