The Hired Wrist on Character
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Hired Wrist

Character. Repeat after me: Character.

Character is the pumping, beating heart of story. Character drives the story. Character is the single most important element in storytelling. Create lasting characters and you will have created lasting, resonant, engrossing stories.

Hamlet Lolita
Lady MacBeth Frankenstein
Frodo Baggins Annie Hall
Lucy & Ethel Hannibal Lechter
Charles Foster Kane Xena
Thelma & Louise Darth Vader

Regardless if you are a beginning writer, novice or pro, a good story well told begins with great characters. Unique characters. Interesting characters. Rounded, three-dimensional characters. And most important, conflicted characters.

When preparing for a difficult role, the incomparable stage actress Helen Hayes once said, "I will know the character when I find her shoes."

Do you know the type and style of shoes your characters wear? If you don't, you don't know your characters.

You cannot have plot without character; you cannot have tension without character; you cannot have resolution without character.* Consequently, in my online instruction, in my classes and in my analysis consultancy, I devote more time, emphasis and analysis to character development and character arcs than any other elements. Additionally, the other character elements I concentrate on in your work include:

  • Character vs. characterization
  • Stereotypes vs. archetypes
  • Discovering what informs your characters
  • Help you determine what your characters want (in every scene you write, every character wants something—they must want something otherwise they have no business in the scene and are dead, useless weight). What a character wants in a scene is what propels the story.
  • Guide you to determine what defines each of your characters.

What I strive for most is to help you—show you—how to give each of your characters memorable, recognizable traits.

And then there's structure...

* Okay, let me backpedal here. The difference between "drama" and "melodrama" is that "drama" is character-driven and "melodrama" is plot driven. In plot driven books and movies, the author forces the (usually paper thin) characters to do and say things that often don't make sense or grate against the character's true beliefs, intents and motivations. Melodramas are easily recognizable, are generally unsatisfying to the reader or viewer and eminently forgettable. Don't fall into the trap of melodrama. You can do better. Much better.

Conflict is character, character is story.-F. Scott Fitzgerald