Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mysterious Characters

The most recent Creative Screenwriting magazine has the third and final part of Karl Iglesias' exploration of character development. Each of these three techniques is demonstrated in the articles by using a case study of As Good as it Gets. Read them.

PART ONE was on using empathy as a means of connecting the viewer to the character through recognition and identification. This was an easy no-brainer concept for me to grasp.

PART TWO was about creating fascination by using conflict and contradiction in characteristics. I never did figure out whether one of those conflicting characteristics has to be something that people recognize and "empathize" with. Thoughts?

PART THREE is about setting up questions to develop mystery.

Iglesias asserts that novice writers are more inclined to fill the reader with information than arouse their interest with questions about plot, character and opportunities for resolution that evoke curiosity and anticipation. Seriously. That's what he says. Arouse your reader!

* Mysterious Past - My grandmother once said about men that a little tease is more effective in the long run than a full reveal. Show a little flesh and a man will hang around to see what else you've got. Show it all and there's nothing new to see. No more secrets. Iglesias says that slowly revealing characters' backstories, skills, origins and secrets makes us hang around to see what else they've got. Clever granny.

*Mysterious Present - This is about creating mysterious behavior and reactions. Don't explain quirks and overreactions right away. I once dated a guy who shed a tear every time he put on his golf shoes. A tear! Why? It's just golf! What the heck is there to cry about before you even tee off? Were the shoes a gift from a beloved dead relative? Were they too tight? Did he steal them? I don't know. I don't even know why they need special shoes for golf. It's a glorified game of kick the can only they use a lumpy little ball instead of a can, a hole in the ground instead of a storm drain, and a skinny stick instead of their feet and it's no wonder. You can't run in those dorky shoes! I hate golf. But I kept tagging along with this guy and every time he donned those shoes, I watched to see if he'd cry -- he always did. That was twenty years ago but if he wanted to see me right this minute, I'd drop everything and say, "sure, lets get re-acquainted over a game of golf" and did I mention that I hate golf? I gotta find out what was up with those shoes!

*Mysterious Future - Create crossroads, dilemmas, excruciating choices and powerful predicaments that make us worry, guess, or wonder just which fork in the road a character will take. Would I cancel the golf game that might give me the answer to my twenty year old question about golf shoes if it conflicted with a Nicholl interview? Duh! See? No mystery. Very boring.

So, that's that. Karl Iglesias' three techniques for making character connections --

Recognition (empathy)
Fascination (conflict and contradiction)
Mystery (planting questions)
Oh, goodie. Mail truck. Gotta go see if my Golf Digest is here. Why am I reading Golf Digest if I hate golf, you ask? Well, that's a mystery. But look. Here's my ankle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ankles are sexy...