Tag Archives: complex

Building a Better Story: Characters

21 Aug

Poison and cheer!

Building a character and building a person are, relatively speaking, the same thing. Just go ahead and start designing the character, and then, at intervals throughout their creation, ask yourself, “Is this what a real person under these circumstances would do? Is this how they’d act? Would Iact this way in the same situation? Would anyone I know act this way? Is this the kind of character who would even have a ‘human’ reaction to these events?”

Doing the above gives us a sense of reality in relation to the character, regardless of whether they’re a man, a machine, an alien, or whatever. When we can observe the character realistically, no matter how strange they might be, they’ve been designed properly.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: designing a character purely for interest is not interesting. We’re not interested characters because they’re interesting. We’re interested in characters because they themselves are interested in the world around them, thereby becoming “interesting.” We are interested in the interested.

Realistically Designed Characters: Han Solo, Andrew Detmer, Commissioner Gordon (BEFORE The Dark Knight Rises), Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, President Josiah Edward “Jed” Bartlet.

Characters Designed for Interest Alone: Jar Jar Binks, Mudflap and Skidds (from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), the Catalyst, Gurgi (until the later books that is).

In short, make people, not characters. And don’t force them to be interesting, because that’s not interesting.

~D.

The Word of the Day

19 Aug

Logs, just logs.

Complexity and nuances aren’t what make great stories, that’s depth’s job. And, as I’ve mentioned previously, depth can be simple, and it can also be natural.

Let’s examine these points individually in reverse, starting with that word “natural.” What does that mean? Well, in terms of stories and their telling, I’d say it means “anything originating without being engineered or contrived.” The natural parts of a story are the parts that come about as though they were entirely consequent of earlier events. Natural events appear real to the reader, and to the reader, the person, any person, things that are real tend to have depth, whether it’s made apparent right away or not. When things are natural, they’re real, and when they’re real they have depth, which is what readers love; not merely complexity, but depth, layers, levels.

Now, we also have this fascination writers have developed lately with creating “nuances” and “uniqueness” in their stories. This is becoming the new cliché, as such forced uniqueness and nuances lead to overly complex tales that nobody can keep up with. It’s fine for things to be original, and even unique, but these things again come from depth, which comes from how real the story is, which comes from how natural the story is. It all comes back to being natural, originating without being engineered or contrived.

And now we come up to complexity, which should never, in my opinion, be the goal of the writer. Intentionally making things complicated will always lead to contrivance. All of these things are connected and they, again, go back to how natural the story is.

So yeah, just keep everything natural and you’ll be fine. Have I used that word enough times for it to sink in?

 

~D.