Sunday, June 06, 2010

Character Demystified

My friend and I had gotten into a debate as to what was more important, story or character. For awhile we made our arguments as to which was more important. In the end it was obvious. A good movie, book or whatever has shining examples of what good characters are like.
Good characters are like the last bite of sundae. Its good all the way til the end then you realize its over, yet you feel satisfied. Maybe I'm over exaggerating but there's something magical about creating great characters that pop up from the screen or out of a book. Its something writers, deal with everyday yet its one of the most difficult to do right because of so many factors to take into consideration.

How do you know your character is interesting?

Its all about conflict. The more conflict a character comes into the more we want to know what happens to them. These problems are not random, in fact a good writer will make sure that conflict comes from the characters own faults.

Ex.A businessman who is struggling financially will have different types of problems all of them requiring different ways of solving these problem.In the fight club, the main character played by Edward Norton.

The protagonist (name unknown)is bored with his life(conflict) which carries over into his home life, work life which leads him down a road self deprecation.

So conflict comes from the decisions a character makes or external problems that impede into the character's life. In order to resolve these issues the character does something opposite of what he would normally do and entails not only different way of thinking but allows the character to grow which interesting to watch.

As a society we like progress. We love to see the underdog go against the odds. Its embedded in our culture. So when we see a natural progression happen before our eyes its magical and truth revealing. This is the essence of story when you can bring the audience into a journey.

There's more to this but I want to save it for another post.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Character Arch revealed

Recently I ran across a site that talked about 5 steps that people go through after losing a job. I was amazed that coincided with the 5 steps of grief which also happens to excellent method of understanding character arch.
Now this is just an example of what someone would go through after losing something of importance. The key here is how each emotion differs from one another.
This is similar to character in a story. Of course in modern storytelling it is often difficult to portray true change especially for a generation of jaded folkCharacter arch is not deliberate and requires that the writer had some experience in their own life or have researched. This is where writing a character arch becomes tough because many times in real life people avoid pain at all costs. So when someone writes character going through a significant change the audience is slightly on the fence because it doesn't ring true and it doesn't reveal any insight on life.
I recently watched the film, On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando who gives a really good performance as a ex prize fighter who works as a shoreman. The movie does a great job in showing Brando's character by pitting him against forces that he believes he can't possible defeat.
People change not because of other people but because they want to and they have to. They change because the current frame of mind isn't solving their problems and now they will have to adapt and find a new course to follow. This is the kind of character arch is tricky because it demands that the audience relate to the character as true and credible. Most stories take a short cut and give the character a revelation that isn't all that profound or unique.

The New Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton is perfect of example of quick revelation and instant epiphany. Wonderland starts off as Alice is miserable becauset she has to marry a a guy she doesn't love. So she runs off because that's what women do when they don't want to marry someone. Without giving too much away, Alice's revelation comes a fourth of a way in the film, her epiphany comes much later but it doesn't matter because it becomes difficult to believe this character because the writer wasn't sure what he wanted us to feel about her. Her character arch was dull and it couldn't deliver anything in the way of a new mindset that will change her life. No instead we're left scratching our heads as to what the character wanted. This isn't indepth review of the movie, I'm just using as an example.

Character Arc demands that the character go through a thinking process that people can relate to and that process is disrupted when unanticipated problem arises and pushes the character out of their comfort zone.
I reminded of something I heard about personal change. The moment that a person decides to change is when the river of life engulfs them and they have to figure out how to swim.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

story structure

After reading Dramatica and devouring Robert Mckee's book entitled Story and not to mention John Truby's book, Anatomy of story; I think the most solid structure in storytelling is the Argumentative style of storytelling. Dramatica details most of this in the free downloadable book.

The Argumentative style is the most prominent in all the best movies and television. It is only second to the hero's journey which was made famous by the Star Wars franchise, however Argumentative style isn't really fascinating like Hero's journey. In fact its the opposite. Hero's journey structure deals with the lone hero and his fight against tyranny which is fun. The Argumentative style deals with the character's weakness and delves into those the problems related to that weakness..huh?...yawn!

A good example would be in GodfatherII. Michael is determined to reign supreme by eliminating all opposition. By the end we see what Michael has given into weakness. He has become the very thing he was opposed to and now he has become the devil in a three piece suit.

Argumentative style deals with internal tickerin's of the character and Hero's Journey deals with the external. I'll talk more about this in later posts. It gets pretty deep and I'm tired. See ya.

Wow, haven't been here for awhile

Well the blog has been on hiatus for awhile and for good reason. Many things have changed including the cancellation of story kebab. It was good while it lasted but I decided to move on. So I also decided to take the knowledge of my story and post things online directly related to it. Not that anyone would care to read it, but I feel like story in mainstream is slowly dying out. What's worse it seems that it is acceptable.
The only company that is got it right is Pixar and its amazing to see them put all their focus onto story. It's humbling to hear Pete Doctor talk about how long they work out the story, (which takes usually about 2-3 years). Pete Doctor just won animated feature of year award at the Academy Awards. Personally I thought UP was just fairly okay film. It wasn't anything extraordinary or brilliant, but because the competition is lagging Pixar won again.