Created By: IronicMouse on December 6, 2017 Last Edited By: IronicMouse on 20 hours ago

Basic Emotional Motivation

A set of characters each with a different basic emotional core

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According to the Discrete Emotion Theory, all humans have a set of basic emotions, and the facial expressions generated by these emotions can be recognized across all cultures. The theory says that these emotions developed in humans to serve our survival in various ways. By creating characters around these emotions, writers can create a set of characters that tap into very basic human instincts. And by having simple emotional cores, the characters become more easily understandable.

Different studies have produced different lists, but the most widely known and most widely accepted was created by American psychologist Paul Ekman. According to Ekman, these basic emotions are:

  • Happiness
    • Characters motivated by happiness are generally upbeat and positive. They will do what they do because it makes them happy or because it makes other happy. Happiness is our brain's reward emotion, and such characters usually find what they do rewarding in and of itself.

  • Sadness
    • Characters motivated by sadness are often quiet and caring. They may or may not have a Dark and Troubled Past, but they are motivated to help others deal with their negative emotions. Sadness is necessary for empathy, and such characters are usually peacekeepers in their groups.

  • Fear
    • Characters motivated by fear are usually cautious and thoughtful. They are not necessarily frightened all the time, but they are motivated to plan ahead and avoid trouble. Fear forces us to stop and think when we encounter a potential danger, and such characters generally value knowledge, which allows them to make informed decisions about danger.

  • Anger
    • Characters motivated by anger are often passionate and forceful. They are not always angry, but they will fight for what they believe in with every fiber of their being. Anger is tied to our fight-or-flight response, and such characters it generally will act first and consider the consequences later.

  • Disgust
    • Characters motivated by disgust are often obsessive and prideful. They are sometimes overly critical, but are more often driven by their desire to improve the world and those around them. Disgust prevents us from sickening ourselves, and such characters believe they know how things ought to be, working as hard as they can to see their visions through.

There is another basic emotion, Surprise, but it is rare to find a character based on an emotion as fleeting as surprise.

NOTES REGARDING EXAMPLES:

If the characters in question are part of a team, and that team has four or fewer members, it does not belong on this page. Teams with fewer than five members belong on other Cast Calculus pages, such as Four-Temperament Ensemble or Freudian Trio.

If the characters in question are part of a team, and that team has more than five members, there's no need to try to fit every team member with an emotional core. First, list the characters with obvious emotional cores, and give a brief explanation of said emotional cores. Then, list the remaining team members and what they bring to the team.

Examples:

Animated Film

  • Inside Out
    • When developing the characters for the movie, the animators at Pixar did extensive research into human psychology. In a case of Shaped Like Itself, the emotion-characters in the film have personalities and motivations very similar to purposes real human emotions have in our own minds.
    • Joy. Joy wants nothing more than for Riley to have a happy life and does her best to make sure that the girl focuses on other emotions as little as possible. Her attempts to keep Sadness from affecting Riley are what set the plot in motion.
    • Sadness. The plot begins in earnest when Sadness begins fiddling with Riley's core emotions. The others falsely believe that Sadness is hurting Riley by making her cry, but they eventually come to realize that only she can prevent Riley from shutting down emotionally.
    • Fear. While nervous and jumpy, Fear is primarily motivated with understanding what might threaten Riley in the future and creating plans to deal with them. His priorities are a bit skewed, as he places getting called on in class alongside meteoric impact in terms of terribleness, but he is the fear of a preteen girl.
    • Anger. According to Joy's voice over, Anger first appeared when Riley developed a sense of fairness. He causes her to lash out when things don't go the way they should, and it is Anger who comes up with the idea to send Riley back to Minnesota(?) to get new memories. He installs the idea without thinking about what it will cause Riley to do or what the potential consequences will be.
    • Disgust. Disgust functions as both Riley's sense of taste, keeping her safe from potential poisons like broccoli, but also as her sense of social and fashion taste. She is responsible for judging whether an outfit or friendship is worth keeping, or it is too toxic to risk.

  • Frozen
    • Elsa: Fear. She was isolated from her sister from a young age on because she couldn't control the magical powers she was born with, about which the Trolls even literally said to/about her "Fear will be your enemy". And it was—her isolation only increased her fear and guilt and, unintendedly, led to her powers getting even more out of control. Her great battle in life was to overcome her fear.
    • Anna: Sadness. Due to her memory having been altered by the Trolls, she doesn't understand why Elsa and her parents shut her out of Elsa's life, which gives her great pain. This is the driving emotion that leads her actions throughout the [first] movie.
    • Hans: Anger. Mistreated by his parents and older brothers, he's decided he doesn't want that life anymore, and wants a better life. Unfortunately this driving emotion fuels him into taking his evil actions in the [first] film.
    • Kristoff: Disgust. Raised by Trolls apart from humans, he has a disdain for humans which he's eager to express (just his song "Reindeers are better than people"...). Humans find him pretty disusting too, with his talks about picking his nose and tinkling in the woods.
    • Olaf: Happiness. The Plucky Comic Relief character who's always enthusiastically cheering on the other main characters, and who has a strongly optimistic (some would say unrealistic) view on life.

Web Comics

  • The Order of the Stick: The titular team
    • Roy: The Straight Man. As the Order's leader, Roy is responsible for keeping the team functioning and reining their less-than-admirable tendencies.
    • Haley: Disgust. Haley joined the Order mainly to get away from the Thieves Guild. The Guild had a complete stranglehold on her hometown, and Hailey was given little choice in joining them. So, when an opportunity came to leave, she took it.
    • Elan: Happiness. Despite having an evil twin and a despot for a father, Elan wants nothing more than for his family and everyone he cares about to be happy. When trapped by an illusion, Elan saw all his dreams come true, but he is both self-aware and Genre Savvy enough to know that what he wants is childish and will never happen. It's this realization that allows him to break free from the illusion and save the others.
    • Belkar: Anger. For a long time, Belkar just wanted to kill things and take their loot. Beyond that, he just enjoyed causing trouble for its own sake. However, he's recently decided to become more of a team player, though he still tries to solve his problems by stabbing them.
    • Vaarsuvius: Fear. After the Battle for Sapphire City, V was wracked with guilt over what they could have done to save the city. They were so afraid that they might fail again, they didn't sleep for weeks, isolated themselves from the team, and sold their soul thrice over to gain the power to stop Xykon. Only when they lost all their power and were forced to face their fear head-on, did they make any progress in delaying the Lich Lord.
    • Durkon: Sadness. Exiled from his homeland with no explanation, Durkon cursed the gods and wallowed in despair until he joined the team. While alive, he healed the team and provided much earthly wisdom. As a vampire, he used the misery that he had suppressed for so long to become the high priest of Hel, wanting nothing more than to spread his mistress' influence.

  • Goblins
    • Chief: Disgust. Chief knew from a young age that he was a fraud, that he was never destined to be chief, and due to his poor leadership, the clan suffered. He initially wanted nothing to do with the goblin adventuring party, but settled on a class that "stays out of the way and never has to do anything exciting, but is still pestered by everyone in the group." Hence, cleric.
    • Big Ears: Sadness. Motivated to become a paladin by the death of his friend, One-Eye. Big Ears wants to make sure no innocents suffer, to protect others rather than standing by.
    • Thaco: Fear. Thaco chose to become a monk, so he could escape imprisonment more easily. His time in the Brassmoon dungeons scarred him deeply, and he never wants to experience anything like that again.
    • Complains: Anger. From day one, Complains of Names' anger at his clan's horrid traditions was evident. In his first battle with Minmax, he stole from his tribe's treasure chest, wielding forbidden weapons, and later became a barbarian, in order to turn his rage into a weapon.
    • Fumbles: Happiness. Fumbles became the very first goblin adventurer, for no other reason than that it sounded really cool. He journeyed to Brassmoon City, solely to return a doll that a little girl had lost, merely because heroes are supposed to do right.

Web Originals

  • RWBY: Teams RWBY and JNPR
    • Ruby: Happiness. Ruby became a Huntress out of a desire to make the world a better place. She's consistently upbeat and manages to find the best in a bad situation.
    • Weiss: Disgust. Weiss became a Huntress because she wanted to distance herself from her family. She initially showed incredible disdain for Beacon Academy and her teammates. In later seasons, when she returned to her home in Atlas, she directed this disdain towards the political elite.
    • Blake: Fear. Blake became a Huntress to escape her past with the White Fang. After spending years sowing fear, she sought a place that would protect her from the organization's vengeance and that would let her fight back against it.
    • Yang: Anger. Yang became a Huntress because she loves to fight, preferring to solve her problems with her shotgun-gauntlets. She harbors a lot of resentment towards her mother, who abandoned the family when Yang was young, and virtually explodes if someone even touches her hair.
    • Pyrrha: Sadness. Pyrrha was on of the best fighters in Vale, a prodigy who attained fame and prestige at a very young age and ending up very Lonely at the Top. As part of Team JNPR, she proved to be Wise Beyond Her Years, offering plenty of advice to her friends and teammates, even advising Jaune to pursue someone else even while she had feelings for him.
    • Juane: Nave Newcomer and Audience Surrogate, later The Strategist.
    • Nora and Ren: Brains and Brawn, Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl, Red Oni, Blue Oni

Western Animation

  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The Mane Six
    • Twilight Sparkle: Fear. Twilight's fear that an ancient fairy tale would come true caused her to learn all she could about Nightmare Moon, which in turn prepared her for the ancient alicorn's return. And her propensity to overthink and over-analyse everything has been the subject of more than a few episodes.
    • Pinkie Pie: Happiness. As the Element of Laughter, Pinkie almost always has a smile on her face and makes a point to share her joy with every pony she meets.
    • Rarity: Disgust. A fashion designer by trade, Rarity has a discerning eye, which she has used to build her brand.
    • Fluttershy: Sadness. Fluttershy's empathy allowed her to calm a raging manticore in the pilot, and later, she was able to use it to befriend and reform Discord.
    • Rainbow Dash: Anger. Dash approaches every situation the same way, head down and full speed ahead. Threatening any of her friends will land you in a world of hurt.
    • Applejack: The Straight Man

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)
    • Leonardo: Disgust. When he was first made the turtles' leader, he had a very specific idea of how that team would behave. A recurring theme was how Leo needed to listen to his teammates, rather than dictate from on high.
    • Donatello: Fear. Donnie has always been the intellectual of the team, and here is no different. Most of his inventions involve making his team safer or more powerful.
    • Raphael: Anger. At this point, Raphael's anger is legendary. The second episode of this series was devoted to Raph learning to control his temper. He is also the most aggressive of his brothers, both at home and in battle.
    • Michelangelo: Happiness. Mikey is a generally happy-go-lucky turtle, far more concerned with having fun than training as a warrior. It is made explicit in this series that Mikey has the most raw talent of any of the turtles, but his obsession with fun means he has never made full use of it.
    • April: Sadness. Splinter recognizes April O'Neal's gift of empathy very quickly, and he quickly begins training her to use it. April also hasn't had the easiest family life. Her mother died while she was young, and she's seen her father kidnapped and mutated multiple times. On top of all that, she was briefly kidnapped and tortured by the Kraang

Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • December 6, 2017
    LegitimateIdiot
    I don’t think this kind of trope would see launch, especially since Five Man Band-types of Tropes always see massive misuse and shoehorn. The description also needs work - proper formatting and a more thorough explanation.
  • December 6, 2017
    IronicMouse
    So, my inspiration for this trope came from browsing the Five Man Band page and noticed all the examples that don't fit the Five Man Band template.

    For every smaller team size, we have tropes for team composition, such as Brains And Brawn, Fighter Thief Mage, and Four Elemental Ensemble, and we have tropes for team dynamics, such as Red Oni Blue Oni, Freudian Trio, and Four Temperament Ensemble.

    But for a team of five characters, we only have the Five Man Band, which is about team composition.

    I'm hoping that by making this trope, we can alleviate a lot of the shoehorning that is plaguing the Five Man Band pages.
  • December 6, 2017
    IronicMouse
    I'll definitely be working on this. I just prefer to put a basic idea forward first, then work on formatting it later. No point in doing all the formatting if no one thinks the idea is any good.
  • December 6, 2017
    WaterBlap
    You need to be particularly careful with Five Man Band-based tropes because they encourage Zero Context Examples, such as the ones in this draft. It is not enough to merely offer a character's name and call it a day. "How does this person fit this role?" is a big question that must be answered.
  • December 6, 2017
    IronicMouse
    Don't worry. I *will* fill out the rest of these. But it's late, and I'm tired.
  • December 6, 2017
    TrueShadow1
    This is going to be a shoehorn magnet, I can see it. See, "this character's personality is based on X" tropes are rife with vagueness and personal interpretations. Your examples of TMNT and MLP honestly sound less "this team match the trope" and more "I worded the team members personalities so it match the trope".

    See Four Temperament Ensemble
  • December 7, 2017
    Synchronicity
    If your concern is "missing five-person niche in Cast Calculus", Four Temperament Ensemble and Four Philosophy Ensemble do have optional fifth members (Leukine and Conflicted, respectively), and the former covers "four/five contrasting personalities." "Emotions" are far more fleeting than "temperaments," and the latter is a more solid foundation for a character.

    Also, The Other Wiki article on Discrete emotion theory lists eight/twelve core emotions. I can't help but think this is just patterned after Inside Out.
  • December 7, 2017
    LB7979
    Does it have to be a "team" /"band" as in these characters are consciously working together as a group? Because otherwise, this could actually work well as "main members of the cast are driven by respectively these five emotions" (regardless of whether they're a band/group). And I get OP's idea that introducing this might actually make less shoehorned examples be put in Five Man Band. As an example:

    Animated Film

    • ''Frozen"
      • Elsa: Fear. She was isolated from her sister from a young age on because she couldn't control the magical powers she was born with, about which the Trolls even literally said to/about her "Fear will be your enemy". And it was—her isolation only increased her fear and guilt and, unintendedly, led to her powers getting even more out of control. Her great battle in life was to overcome her fear.
      • Anna: Sadness. Due to her memory having been altered by the Trolls, she doesn't understand why Elsa and her parents shut her out of Elsa's life, which gives her great pain. This is the driving emotion that leads her actions throughout the [first] movie.
      • Hans: Anger. Mistreated by his parents and older brothers, he's decided he doesn't want that life anymore, and wants a better life. Unfortunately this driving emotion fuels him into taking his evil actions in the [first] film.
      • Kristoff: Disgust. Raised by Trolls apart from humans, he has a disdain for humans which he's eager to express (just his song "Reindeers are better than people"...). Humans find him pretty disusting too, with his talks about picking his nose and tinkling in the woods.
      • Olaf: Happiness. The Plucky Comic Relief character who's always enthusiastically cheering on the other main characters, and who has a strongly optimistic (some would say unrealistic) view on life.
  • December 7, 2017
    LB7979
    It would help if this was not named "Five Emotional Ensemble" but something along the lines of "Five differently-emotionally-driven main characters" (<— and yeah that particular example is lame and probably overly-long, but just to give an idea/suggestion).
  • December 7, 2017
    IronicMouse
    @Synchronicity: You are right. The list does just look like the cast of Inside Out, but that's because when making the movie, Pixar followed Paul Ekman's list of basic emotions when making the characters. That's the list I used, since it's the most widely known and most widely accepted.

    @LB 7979: Thank you for another example! And no, they don't have to be a team, per se. The impetus for this trope was trying to find a way to make the Five Man Band more...coherent, but if a set of characters that aren't a team, but are otherwise connected, fit the trope, I say throw them in.
  • December 7, 2017
    IronicMouse
    Gah! That's what I get for launching a trope late at night. When I said that a character is "based on" an emotion, I meant to say they are motivated by that emotion. fixing now.
  • December 8, 2017
    Dravencour
    I'm trying to group Team RWBY into the ensemble in question, which is a bit tough given that this is a five-person trope, and well, there's four of them.
    • Ruby would be a shoo-in for Happiness, given her adorable and often genki nature.
    • Weiss would be either Disgust or Sadness, given her haughtiness and perfectionism and what we've learned of her past and her family, which were anything but happiness inducing.
    • Blake would be Fear. While she has a fair bit of Anger in her, caution and thoughtfulness are her watchwords, and her time with Adam Taurus gave her much to be afraid of.
    • Yang, though her Boisterous Bruiser qualities do denote a fair bit of Happiness, is Anger through and through. What else can you expect from someone with "I Burn" as her Leitmotif?
  • December 8, 2017
    Synchronicity
    ^If it gets to that, then it's probably not an example. That's the kind of thinking that lead to massive FMB misuse.
  • 20 hours ago
    IronicMouse
    Alright, everything's in place! I'm going to relaunch this in a few days, since this got three strikes in the first few days. Anyone got anything they want to add?
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