Learned this from last weeks post. The correct term to use when taking about material that has a copyright is to say “copyrighted material”. Often this gets slurred into “copywritten material” however that would imply a root word of “copywrite” instead of “copyright”.
This week I have characters on the brain. In particular a method of developing unique characters by giving them random characteristics.
With so many movies in existence it is difficult (in fact is it probably impossible) to create a truly unique character and yet every writer strives for it. No writer wants to create a cliche. They want to make something memorable and something that is entirely their own. So what often happens is a writer creates a character and to make them unique, they give them an unusual set of characteristics. For the purposes of this post, I will present you with my example of a unique character:
Rosalind (Rosa) Macintosh is a narcoleptic, roller derby girl who believes facial tattoos are the greatest form of self-expression.
So what I have before me is a random character (because I picked all her traits at random) and this makes her pretty unique. But what sometimes gets missed in writing is that random or unusual characters don’t work in stories. They are disjointed and irritating and obviously the product of a writer trying too hard to be unique.
The trick is, to prevent Rosa or any character from feeling random, the aspects that make them unique must impact the plot in some way.
Now you may be thinking that a characters personality should not affect the plot because the audience will think it is too coincidental, but that is not true. The personality and activities of a character make them more likely to be in certain situations and thus the plot should always be related to the activities the character takes part in.
Take Rosa, she plays roller derby so any plot surrounding the roller derby rink is likely to affect her and vice versa. It is not a coincidence that a roller derby player is at a roller derby rink, it is simply a normal situation.
To further highlight why your unique character needs to be tied into your plot, I will offer two generic plots that feature Rosa.
- A serial killer breaks into a home and holds a family hostage. It is up to the youngest daughter, Rosa, to outwit the killer and save her family.
- The roller derby rink turns out to be a front for dealing drugs. When a new player enters the drug business, Rosa is the only witness to the murder of the owner of the rink. Now Rosa finds herself on the run, and in need of a place to hide.
In the first example Rosa can still be the character that I wrote, but it is unlikely the roller derby aspect is going to play a big role. Perhaps the narcolepsy will show up and the facial tattoos will make her memorable, but they won’t influence the plot (at least not in any way I can think of). In this situation Rosa is a unique character, but her traits can only be used as talking points.
In the second example the roller derby aspect will show up and if Rosa is seen by the villains the facial tattoos will make it exceptionally difficult for her to hide. As well, narcolepsy will not help as she must stay vigilant and avoid those that want her dead. In this situation Rosa’s unique characteristics have become action points in the plot.
Both examples feature the same character, but you should see that the second example incorporates the character into the plot, while the first example is simply a plot that features the character. In example one Rosa seems to be a random character placed in the plot but in example two all of her random traits affect the plot just like how the personality and activities of a person affects their day to day life.
I would like to note that I don’t recommend you write random characters and then write plots around them, that was just an exercise I did to highlight my point. But I do want you to remember that you should not just create random/unusual characters and place them in a plot. Instead figure out how the plot can be adjusted to incorporate your character and all their traits. Ultimately you do not want a character’s traits to simply be talking points, you want them to be action points.
Hope that helps. Until next week, keep writing.