When it comes to writing characters, it is important to be aware of what you are writing. Last week we spoke about the structure of stories, today we are going to be looking at what to think of when writing characters. Below is a video about how to develop characters, starting with a look at protagonists, antagonists and conflicting motivations.
A good example to start with is The Wizard of Oz (also Renegade Cut is brilliant for analysing films in general)
If you haven’t seen it, this is a good place to start with your iconic Hero’s Journey archetypes. You have a hero, a mentor, assistants and villains. To keep it simple, we’re going to refer to main characters as protagonists (because you can have anti-heroes, stories from the villain’s perspective, tragic heroes etc) and antagonists (can refer to villains, but equally can refer to obstacles in the protagonist’s way that are not necessarily inherently evil).
One thing to look for with any character is their layers and contradictions. In Dorothy’s case, this is someone who longs for adventure, but equally cares for her family. She wants to go home, but wants to protect her friends (equally if you see it as a subtext for adulthood, the scarecrow’s brains, the lion’s courage and tin man’s heart can all refer to Dorothy learning lessons and growing up.)
Ultimately the journey Dorothy goes on is both physical and metaphorical- she goes on an adventure with her friends stopping an evil witch, but she also learns the value of her home (“There’s no place like home”) and to cherish what she has.
Man and machine
A great visual representation of character layers is Robocop, a story about a part man, part machine. While it can be enjoyed as an action film, it is also deeply satirical, as well as a tragic reverse Frankenstein where the monster is the redemptive figure. As you may have guessed I love Robocop and I urge you to watch the film and the Making of Flesh and Steel for a more indepth look at the plot/character/behind the scenes story.
Conscious v Subconscious
It is also important to extend contradictions to your villain as well. A perfect example of this is Judge Claude Frollo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame. He is doing terrible things, but claims to do so for moral purposes, and in the song Hellfire we get the ideal illustration of another contradiction, the subconscious desires behind his actions.
For those of you who know the comic, you will know about the issue we literally called Subconscious for similar reasons (if you haven’t you can read it here)
Original character contest
There is still a week to go on our original character contest, your chance to design your own characters and win prizes (Deadline this Friday 26th January!)