Recently I’ve had some time to analyze characters; I mean, that’s normally the driving force behind any kind of story. There are some exceptions, but we can all agree that 9 out of 10 times a story is driven forward by the protagonist. Sometimes that character is reluctant, and the author forces outside influences upon the character to manifest reactions. Other times, the protagonist is written as a character, who is actively searching for some kind of resolution. In either event, the character starts off with a sort of blank slate; we do not know anything about him/her, and by the end, the protagonist has undergone some sort of change. Before you say anything, no, this is not always the case. Let’s look at some standard examples though.
Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Real quick, I want to point out that this was published in 1937…it is soooo time for something new.
Anyway, Bilbo is an unsuspecting, naive, and fairly sheltered protagonist, and probably starts as the reluctant character, who by force of the story, becomes an active character seeking some sort of resolution; helping the dwarves, defeating the dragon, etc.
More recently, but still outdated, we have Luke Skywalker from Star Wars Episode 4
For those who know me, you’ll appreciate my (for once) unbiased opinion. Oh, wait, I already said it was outdated….
Okay, so young Skywalker, a reckless youth longing for adventure gets swept away by practically the biggest adventure imaginable; he has to stop the Death Star from destroying planets.
In this case, Skywalker starts off an impetuous character with the need to go a few rounds with the world around him…then his folks get killed and suddenly the reality of what it means to be at odds comes smashing him in the nards…or something like that. No, but seriously, folks, Skywalker undergoes several changes throughout the movies. Some of those changes are his own doings in order to grow and develop as an individual, and some of those changes, say, almost crossing over to the Dark Side, are brought about by other influences.
Regardless of the type of story; novel, movie, show, etc., the writer must find some method of changing his/her protagonist. If not, then the writer has to alter some other aspect of the created world, something I may touch upon in future posts.
There are other instances, in say, short stories, where a character may not need to change, but it then varies on the…convolution of that story; its particular complexities. It takes quite the story to have a static character, or many static characters, and still be appealing. Think about all those T.V. shows that came and went. Why? Most of the time, their characters were lame, and the story just wasn’t cool enough to keep people’s attention.
We need to see our characters-in order to identify with them, undergo strife and change.
Writers, think about it. Reply with your own situations. Readers and viewers, keep that in mind next time you’re involved with some flick or book. Please comment. Share your opinions.