On Story: “Creating Complex Characters”

Like I said before, ‘On Story’ continues to top itself week after week. Sunday night’s episode featuring Rodrigo Garcia challenged both my knowledge and opinions of what it means to create complex characters and how to develop their stories. I agree with his opinion, for the most part, but I found a couple of flaws and I’d like to see what you all think!

First of all, he enjoys narratives which begin on the first page of the script, rather than determining a premise or “setting up a world” for thirty pages. In literary terms, think of Harry Potter— I know what you’re thinking: she’s using a contemporary example, shocking, but never fear… I’ll dig up an ancient example before the blog ends — anyhow, Harry Potter begins on his Aunt and Uncle Dursley’s doorstep at the beginning of his life and only focuses on a few of the prime characters who will become a major part of his life when he grows up. If J.K. Rowling had introduced everything about Wizarding World from the get-go (including Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic, Azkaban, etc.) it would have been too much for her readers to stomach. We might have all placed the book down! So, I think Garcia has a point; feeding your audience a little bit of information at a time is integral to character development.

However, I disagree with his design for character complexities. Garcia used the example of Mother and Child, a film he directed in 2009, to describe the questions we must ask about characters in order to develop who they are and how their stories will progress — I believe he used the example of asking questions such as, “What is wrong with that person?” Let’s venture back to The Wizard of Oz. The film uses a considerable amount of time to introduce Dorothy and her problems and we are spoon-fed the World of Oz as the film progresses, as he prescribed for a good narrative previously. However, I think if you analyze only Dorothy’s problems and Dorothy’s goals, the story becomes one-sided. Without the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion… who would shape or bring out Dorothy’s character? In my opinion, characters are shaped by their relationships and those who bring out their character — primarily in films. In novels, a reader can distinguish thoughts of the main character, in film you must be told openly or shown.

“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking” should be the tagline for my blog.

Let me know what you think! Is it possible to create a complex character solely on complex questions?

If you missed this week’s episode, as always, it is available on On Story’s website. Be sure to join me on Sunday at 5:30P on KACV for another episode of On Story featuring the writers of King of the Hill and Kung Fu Panda!

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