It’s been the plot of many movies since the silent film era. The audience gets introduced to the good guy, normally a tall, dark and exceptionally muscled man; we meet his lover, the fair faced blonde that always seems to get in to trouble, then … Continue reading Why everybody loves the villain!
It happens to the best of us. When we watch TV, read a book or watch a film, we always find ourselves getting close to certain characters, coming to care about their feelings and actually becoming upset when something bad happens to them. It seems that no matter what you are watching, there is always a character who you will somehow relate to.
So why do we get so attached to fictional characters? In reality, they are just words in a script, brought to life by the actors that play them, but it is not the actors that we become attached to, it is the person they are portraying.
In the words of the great Howard Sklar, “The way we respond to fictional characters has a lot to do with our ability to connect with others and to feel for a person’s situation.” He also states “As anyone who has watched an engaging film or read an engaging novel knows, we invest ourselves deeply in the experience of living with those characters; we tend to respond to them as though they were real individuals.”
As we watch a movie, a TV series or read a book, we find ourselves subconsciously filling in the gaps of the character’s lives and making up fictional stories about them to make them seem more human. The narration of the novel or storyline of the film or episode allows us to stare through the window and into the personal lives of the characters, somehow making us feel closer to them.
Then when something bad happens to our beloved character, they either get hurt, they die or are written out the series you have loyally watched for years, it is like losing someone close to you. It literally hurts.
When we see our ordinary characters go through extraordinary challenge sometimes coming out on top, we look up to the character as a role model and an example of how we should be ourselves. When reading a book, we get to see the inner thoughts of our beloved characters. Even watching our favourite TV series or a movie, we learn so much more about that character than we would know of the real people that surround us every day.
Because we get to know them on such a personal level, we gain a connection with them where their success, becomes our success.
An example of this would be my own attachment and borderline obsession with a certain character in the US television show called ‘NCIS’. Ever since the first episode of season three, I found myself becoming more and more drawn to a certain female character called Ziva. She is an Israeli Mossad agent, with very bad temper and a love for all things deadly. Not only did I find myself becoming attached to this character, I also found myself feeling upset and hurt when the actress decided to leave the show.
I am not saying that I can relate to this character on any level – I did not grow up in Israel, I did not work for the Navy and I am not a kick ass assassin (and even if I was, I wouldn’t tell you ) but there was always a sense of familiarity between myself and the character. A sense of comfort.
Another example would be the countless fandom’s floating around the internet, or the innumerable armature fiction dedicated to characters from books, TV shows and Movies, or the privately funded conventions where fans dress up as their favourite characters to go meet more likeminded individuals such as themselves.
In a nut shell, we are all human, we crave companionship when we are sitting alone in front of the TV, and we create that companionship with the fictional characters on screen.
If you are sitting there reading this article with a strange disbelieving expression on your face, just think about it… when was the last time you got so engrossed in a film, or a TV series or a book, that you actually cared about the characters?
Next time you sit down to watch your favourite film or TV show, or read your favourite book, keep this article in mind.
Which character are you attached to?
SCRIPTWRITING: A STUDENT GUIDE PART 3
It is not an easy job to write a character that is both original and identifiable, a character that has his or her flaws just like everybody else, but also has qualities that make an audience look up to and idolise them with a character that in the end, becomes a better person.
But where do we even begin to think of these characters?
As a writer, you sit there with your fifth cup of coffee cooling next to you and endless amounts of snacks with copious amounts of sugar surrounding your cluttered desk of screwed up bits of paper and novelty pencils. A new Word document stays open on your fingerprint smudged screen. The curser, blinking every so often, taunts you.
To spark some ideas you consider searching the internet for something, anything that will help you come up with a character that everyone will love, but as time passes, you find yourself looking at Vines and funny cat videos on YouTube, and even though these habits are harder to shake than a long term drug habit , we have come up with five ideas to help you come up with believable, likable and original characters.
Surprisingly, the method of using star signs to invent the personalities of your characters is widely used by many authors and script writers. Using the already set-out template of good and bad personality traits can help a writer expand and improve their character. For example, if your character were to be a Capricorn, they would be confident, energetic and courageous and if he or she were to be a Scorpio, maybe you can give them a temper?
Instead of sitting at your desk in a dark and suspicious smelling dorm room, why not go outsideand sit at a table at the local cafe or a park, and just watch. Hundreds of people pass through every day, each with their very own little personal traits and appearances. You would be very surprised at how much you notice when you just sit and observe.
Basing your characters on famous people or famous characters is a great way to create a likable character that is relatable and familiar to the audience. People are more inclined to like a character if it reminds them of their role models.
However, remember not to copy everything about your chosen person, it is still your character.
Draw from your own experiences
Basing a character around people you have met, people you know or people you don’t even like can be an extremely effective way to create a fresh new character with interesting personality traits. Just don’t use their real name.
I once based a character on my Father, and even though he started out as a grumpy old man, as the script developed, the character evolved and become a much more likeable and three dimensional character. Even if you only have an outline of your character, if you are good at what you do, they will grow into something great.
Not everybody can do it, and in my opinion, it is the least effective on this list. But if you take a moment to just sit and think of a random character, with a random personality and a random appearance, you will eventually come up with a character that will grow as the story does.
So what have we learnt by this?
Whatever happens, always remember to give your character a hook, maybe he is a mummy’s boy, or maybe he never goes anywhere without his funny looking dog named Spot?
Whoever they may be, remember not to force the character. An audience can always tell when a character is forced. So if you are struggling to think of the next character for your next short film, just relax, have a cuppa and maybe watch a cheesy old film.
It will come to you.
Here are a few links to help you along the way to creating a masterpiece.
Five ways to start a script : http://2012.scriptfrenzy.org/node/2003510
Developing your characters :http://www.wikihow.com/Develop-Characters-in-Film
Characters for the screen :http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting/character
And here is the link to the original article including parts one and two of SCRIPTWRITING: A STUDENT GUIDE and many, many more interesting blogs and information.
The Birdies Film Festival : http://www.thebirdiesff.com/#!blog/cnms