Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Once Upon a Time there was a beautiful princess... who had a personality.

So during the course of writing my novel, I looked an awful lot into different ways of developing characters. The biggest must-do I found when creating believable character is to give them a back-story. Why are they here? Why are they doing whatever it is they're doing? Characters have more than two dimensions. The reader needs to feel something for the characters in your story or the entire thing is rendered pointless.

The same goes for films. Granted, you need a bit more to pad out the character. What do they look like? How do they carry themselves? How do they speak? The hero needs to be likeable, the audience have to WANT him to succeed. Likewise, the villain needs to be loathed - the audience wants him to be taken down. Though, as with everything, the rules are not set in stone - there are exceptions.

I'm going to examine some characters from film and books that I personally find interesting.

Firstly we have WALL-E and EVE from Pixar's animated feature of the same name. These are good characters to start of with as both are portrayed with very little dialogue, instead communicating with body language and beeps. WALL-E is the last remaining robot on an earth without humans. The film tells a tale of how he falls in love with another robot named EVE and the two successfully return humans to the planet - despite all odds; and how WALL-E finally gets to hold EVE's hand. The character designs are incredible. Body language is considered right down to the smallest gestures - Both robots staring mystified at the flame of a cigarette lighter, for example. The film builds up empathy for WALL-E and throws it back in our face by killing him off. I won't lie - I cried.

Secondly is another isolated character: Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. Edward was created by an inventor who sadly died before he could give Edward hands. Edward and his lethal scissorhands are found by a kindly woman who brings him to her house. He falls in love with her teenaged daughter. Slowly but surely he is accepted by the neighbourhood; but with his innocence and kindness it was clear he would never fit in. A string of misunderstandings lead to him being chased from the town by a bloodthirsty mob, back to the house where he came from. Never to be with the girl he loved. The scene with the professor presenting Edward with hands but then dying made me cry.

Third up is Akkarin of The Black Magician novel series by Trudi Canavan. Unlike the other two, this guy is portrayed as a villain, a Black Magician and a murderer, and the reader (along with the main character Sonea) is made to really dislike him. Until, of course, the twist in the tale is revealed and we discover his painful past as a slave. He is the only one standing between his home and imminent invasion. However, the Guild discover his identity as a Black Magician and exile him. Sonea stubbornly follows him. Eventually, however, the two return and save the Guild from the invading Black Magicians. Akkarin dies in the process. (Yes, I cried).

My final example is Prince Septimus from Stardust. He is portrayed as a bad guy, gleefully bumping off his brothers in a battle for the throne of the Kingdom. He is a total git with little to no morals. But the character was played well and I was greatly saddened when he was finally killed. (Didn't cry at this one - as there was someone else in the room with me ^^;)

For the most part I think the characters are the most important part of any story. For, without them, how could it happen? This also puts a lot of pressure on the characters to be good, well-rounded, believable... To achieve this you need good actors, good wardrobe, good script and a believable world for them to exist in.

Example time!

Edward Scissorhands dressed in a tracksuit? NOT going to work. WALL-E speaking with a Texan accent? ...It's NOT going to work! Prince Septimus making daisy chains while discussing the joys of Earl Grey Tea? ...might work if played for comedy.


I'm a sucker for tales of the underdog. The lonely-heart. Things that tug on the right heartstrings are a shoe-in for my approval. I also like things that are a bit unusual - fantasy mainly. I like characters I can relate to and characters with hidden depths.

If I like the characters then I'll most likely like the film too, I will want to sit and watch to see what happens to them. I guess, in a way, I want to make sure that no harm comes to them.

And of course, all good stories provide ideas and inspiration for stories of my own. <3

- The dougalBUG.

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