Thursday, August 23, 2007

Character Juxtaposition

Howdy again,
We're back with a new post. This time we're talking about character juxtaposition. What's that you say? Simple it's a method for getting the most out of your antagonists. When I create a character\story the first thing I do is map out the protag's outward personality. Inward personality traits very rarely show up around others.

For example I have a character that doesn't appreciate when guys only hit on her so I gave her an antag that can't and won't take no for an answer.

Or if you have a protag that doesn't like children surround him by children.

The protag cant swim, the antag kidnaps him to a boat in the middle of the Pacific.

And so on.

It's the best way I've found to create conflict.

The next thing I usually do is intro a functional or support character who does take no for an answer and then flip flop interactions between the two.

This also adds conflict as the functional character will be in opposition to whatever the antag does.

This also works with the other supporting characters. Everyone needs their own personality so one support maybe more shy or less aggressive; more experienced or less worldly; more open or less social.

A lot of teachers recommend letting the character determine the story and I wholeheartedly agree. Some people may call it character-driven but I call it "character-centrism." When the story or plot points take precedence, characters are more likely to be dry, just reacting to the plot and not driving the story with their personality.

I'm of the opinion that plot-driven stories end up "boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back" because of the "non-use" of personality.

As an example I have a spec where a guy follows the protag to college and instead of them having some horrible falling otu I chose to have her goal be "inconsistent" with his and he finds that he assumed too much and has to change his plan. Then I pulled a fast one and put him together with the "more open" support.

Another thing I noticed with plot-driven stories is that people tend to wreck their apartments out of anger from "being an asshole" to the love interest. It happens all to much which is why you have a dearth of action stories where no characters are developed to balance out the crappy plot-driven dramas and thrillers.

More writers should be willing to sacrifice box office to write something substantive. With practice it becomes possible to include those "character moments." Myself, I feel that it is better to have ten people see something different. That means that those ten people may converse and try to see what the other sees. After all, repeat viewers are what you want.

But that also means researching your protag to line them up with the demographic they represent. If you get the demographic with the character people outside the demo will be interested enough to see what the fuss is about. The key is no fear. Let your characters live and breathe, but don't make the mistake of letting them "decide" what they say or do.

Rather let them get themselves into the positions that CAUSE plot points and twists.

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