11 January 2010

Connecting to the Character

People read stories and go to the movies 70% for the character. We love to peek into other people's lives, even if the other people are mere characters in a book or movie.

This last writer's story is filled with dramatic action, which makes for an exciting story. I find myself anxious to hear what happens next, and what happens after that. The writer masterfully provides more and more compelling action, and does so seamlessly through consistent cause and effect. The Dramatic Action plot line rises quickly and effectively.

Still, the more intriguing the mystery, the scarier the suspense, the more cardboard action figure-like the characters become as they passively allow the dramatic action to happen. The more exciting the action, the more the characters are ignored and the less I find out about how the characters. especially the protagonist, are affected by the dramatic action. Without the help of the character to draw me closer, I find myself separating further and further from the story.

At this point in the consultation, I go over the importance of goal setting for the protagonist ~~ both at the scene level and the overall story level. The better a writer is at establishing concrete goals for her characters, the easier it is for her to keep track of the affects on the character as the character succeeds and fails in achieving her goals.

[Note: At a recent Plot Planner Writers Workshop, one of the writers expressed confusion between a goal and a dream. A goal is quanifiable and under the protagonist's control. In other words, the character is capable of succeeding. Whether they actually do or not is up to them. A dream, on the other hand, requires a bit of magic or help from outside sources. The protagonist cannot fulfill his or her own dreams, but must rely on the help of others.]

In the consultation, I never find out why the protagonist is missing when her husband is nearly killed. Why? Because the writer doesn't know either. A critical door into the character on a deep, personal level is never opened by the author and thus, would have robbed the future readers or movie-goers from the intimate bond of knowing.

The writer uses the protagonist to advance the Dramatic Action plot line, but ignores the Character Emotional Development plot line almost completely.

Still, she has done the hard part. The story is written. The dramatic action propels the story in quick and exciting ways. Once pointed out, the doors are easily opened. By attending to what is behind each door, the writer's chances improve for bringing satisfaction to future fans through knowing the character even better than the character knows herself.