Presentation on theme: "The Character Lecture Roles, Dimensions, and Purpose."— Presentation transcript:
The Character Lecture Roles, Dimensions, and Purpose
A character is a made-up person in a story.
As an author, you get to make up this person.
This fictional person may be based on some aspect of yourself or of someone you know.
This character will have a designated role in your story, which you must direct and develop.
This PowerPoint intends to help you answer three questions about a character in development: What role should this character play? What role should this character play? Will this character be round or flat? Will this character be round or flat? Will this character be static or dynamic? Will this character be static or dynamic?
Let’s begin with character roles.
Like a casting director, you need to know which actor can play which role.
Here is your cast: The Protagonist The Protagonist The Antagonist The Antagonist The Foil The Foil The Stock Character The Stock Character
In your story, you will need to fill each role at least once.
The Protagonist The Protagonist is the lead character—the focus of audience identification. We expect that the character will change in some way, becoming a better (or worse) version of him or her self.
In the eponymous films, Shrek becomes a better, more fulfilled version of himself. He earns Fiona’s love.
Fiona also changes. At first obsessed with protocols and externals, she gives up expectations for love of the least- likely candidate in animation history.
She accepts her true nature as an ogress and finds personal and marital fulfillment as a result.
The happiness Shrek and Fiona find together is a promise to all of us.
Not all protagonists change for the better, however.
Some change for the worse-- a whole lot worse.
Michael Corleone, the protagonist of The Godfather books and films, changes. For his father’s safety, he sacrifices his ideals and integrity to become the thing he most despises: a mob boss.
Like all sacrifices, his cannot be unmade. He alienates his wife, has his own brother murdered, and is shunned by his children. Our last image is of a man who has everything—and no one.
In the last scene of The Godfather, Part II, we see him as utterly, eternally alone.
The price he pays for victory is a warning to all of us.
Change in a Protagonist is not possible without conflict.
There is no greater source of conflict that a bona-fide Antagonist.
An Antagonist is the character in conflict or competition with the Protagonist.
Lord Farquaad competes with Shrek for control of the swamp and for Fiona’s hand in marriage.
Prince Charming competes with Shrek for control of Far, Far Away and for Fiona.
Conflict in the Shrek series results from their conviction that their wealth and conventional appearances make them better for Fiona than Shrek.
The audience is aware, however, that neither character would make a great monarch, and that neither loves Fiona. Each would seek to conventionalize her against her will.
We watch to see if trickery and deceit win out over true love.
In the Shrek films, they do not win.
Nor do they win in Snow White and the Huntsman.
Queen Ravenna, the antagonist of Snow White and the Huntsman, deceives and betrays virtually everyone, even her brother, but ends up defeated by the protagonist, Snow White.
Keep in mind that antagonists are not always human—or even alive.
In Finding Nemo, the antagonists are the Pacific Ocean, which separates Marlin from Nemo, and the fish tank which keeps Nemo prisoner.
Protagonists and antagonists are primary characters Protagonists and antagonists are primary characters.
For realistic fiction, there must also be thesecondary characters. For realistic fiction, there must also be the secondary characters.
A Foil is a character whose purpose is to point up a specific quality in a Protagonist by contrast.
Donkey is Shrek’s best friend Donkey is Shrek’s best friend. He is also an excellent foil. His cowardice and indecision highlight Shrek’s bravery and confidence by contrast.
In return, his openness and friendliness highlight Shrek’s stubbornness and poor social skills by contrast.
A fictional world must be inhabited by more than just the main cast of protagonists, antagonists, and foils.
Often, authors rely on a culturally- provided warehouse stuffed to the rafters with Stock Characters.
A stock character is an instantly- recognizable type.
These characters are so familiar that an author doesn’t always develop them.
Consider the ubiquity of the “TV mom.” Think Modern Family or The Neighbors. Or the “hooker with a heart of gold.” Think Pretty Woman— and even House, M.D.
Consider one stock character in particular:
The soldier more committed to a cause than to society’s ideals: Avatar’s Col. Miles Quaritch is an example.
So is Col. Nathan Jessup from A Few Good Men
You can see the type in Gen. W.R. Monger from Monsters vs. Aliens
The Mean-Girl Cheerleader is also frequently deployed. Santana Lopez of Glee Santana Lopez of Glee Cordelia Chase of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Cordelia Chase of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer Libby Chessler of Sabrina, the Teen-Age Witch Libby Chessler of Sabrina, the Teen-Age Witch
Some authors go beyond “stock” into stereotype.
What more needs to be said?
We are not those authors.
We are authors who determine dimension— whether a character will be flat or round.
A round character offers the three- dimensional illusion that he or she has a past, a present, and a future.
Round characters are sometimes more vivid than people we actually know.
Consider Meryl Streep, whose characters are so three-dimensional and so suffused with an inner life that she has been nominated 27 times for Academy awards.
Think of the control-freak boss- from-hell, Miranda Priestly
Or Donna, the free- spirit hippie mom
Or even ‘Margaret Thatcher,’ Prime Minister of England
Each character’s unique inner life shines through Streep’s portrait.
Miranda Priestly, Donna, and ‘Margaret Thatcher’ are round characters.
But characters can also be flat.
Flat characters remain two- dimensional. We know nothing about where they came from or where they’re going, or what they most desire.
The blue whale in Finding Nemo is a flat character.
We know nothing about where the whale comes from or why he wants to help. He’s a baleen limo.
By contrast, we know a lot more about Dragon’s inner life: she’s disappointed about her failure in the castle, she loves Donkey, and she sincerely wants to help Shrek save Fiona.
The bartender in the Ritz Bar in “Babylon Revisited” is a flat character.
The whale and the bartender—and the waitress in “Hills Like White Elephants”— perform necessary functions to advance the plot.
But they don’t even get names.
All characters have a purpose. Let us now consider what some characters do.
The Prime Directive for all protagonists is this:
Change or die.
This is not negotiable.
Even reality shows like Jersey Shore feature highly-contrived but recognizable arcs.
The story arc is the vehicle of change: the character moves from a state of grace to a state of damnation, and sometimes back to a state of grace.
Change occurs in a character when he or she discovers something so important that nothing in his or her world can ever be the same.
Luke discovers Darth Vader is his father.
Nemo discovers that his malformed fin is no obstacle to his life or his happiness.
You get the idea.
After the epiphany, the character takes a different course of action, in spite of the risks. Luke Skywalker chooses to redeem Darth Vader Luke Skywalker chooses to redeem Darth Vader Shrek chooses to fight for Fiona Shrek chooses to fight for Fiona Snow White chooses to fight for her kingdom Snow White chooses to fight for her kingdom Harry Potter chooses to confront Voldemort Harry Potter chooses to confront Voldemort Frodo chooses to take the Ring to Mordor Frodo chooses to take the Ring to Mordor Michael Corleone chooses to save his father’s life Michael Corleone chooses to save his father’s life Charlie Wales chooses to face reality without people from his previous life Charlie Wales chooses to face reality without people from his previous life Marlin chooses to let go Marlin chooses to let go And so on... And so on...
Not all change, however, is good.
Remember Michael Corleone and Queen Ravenna?
Frodo cracks under pressure, can’t live with the knowledge, and leaves the Shire for the Grey Havens.
Sometimes, a character refuses to change.
That character almost always ends up dead.
Like Jay Gatsby (oops! Spoiler Alert!)
Or Captain Ahab
Or, like Dr. House, he ends up in a TV drama rolling weekly through the same plot for eight years Or, like Dr. House, he ends up in a TV drama rolling weekly through the same plot for eight years.
Foil characters may also change but don’t always have to.
Donkey is not the protagonist, but he changes, moving from fearing Dragon to loving her.
Sometimes, the foil doesn’t change, and this refusal highlights the heroic aspects of a protagonist.
Boromir yields to the Ring’s temptation. This highlights Aragorn’s self- control.
Sometimes, the foil doesn’t change because he or she doesn’t need to.
Morpheus is already evolved. His role is to initiate Neo into the truth about the Matrix.
Obi-Wan Kenobi has survived his own test and now chooses to initiate Luke into the ways of the Force.
Dr. Cockroach, who has already undergone his own transformation, initiates Susan into her new life as a monster in Monsters vs. Aliens
It is now your responsibility to bring this new awareness into your fiction...