Thursday, October 27, 2016

I Have Seen the Protagonist, and She Is Me

A problem that crops up in storytelling is the one-dimensional character. You've seen them, the cardboard cutout that pops into the story, acts as a plot complication, then leaves. There is little rhyme or reason for the character to do what he/she/it/they do.

As a result, everything becomes tainted with that fake plastic smell, and that is not a good thing.

Sometimes, the writer will overcompensate, dumping in a ton of backstory, in an attempt to make sure every single thing is absolutely crystal clear, no matter how much it drags the narrative down...

As with most things, the answer is found in the middle way. You want to, in your own mind, know who your characters are. What were their childhoods like? What do they do when they're alone? How would they react to slow Internet or a botched dinner order? You're not going to necessarily put this into the story, but the answers to these questions and ones like them will inform their actions. They stop being plot devices and turn into fleshed out people with inner lives. You need to give them their own unique physics engines to avoid them from performing a random string of events thrown in to move things along. Their choices may be based on faulty logic or misinformation, but to them, it makes perfect sense.

Nest time you're out, look at the people around you: the woman on the bus, the barista at the coffee house, the cashier at the supermarket. To you, these are all random people you may never see again, but if you could get into their heads, they would be people with interior lives, hopes, dreams, and all the rest. They are the main characters of their own stories, and you are the random person.

Think about it.
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