Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Core of Characterisation -- by Rowena Cory Daniells

(Rowena is away from her computer, but she left this for us. Enjoy!)
It always comes back to characterisation, for me. Whether it is a movie or a book, I have to care about the people, otherwise why would I keep reading/watching? If a book is really memorable, I find myself thinking about the characters for days afterwards.

I’ve always loved the artwork of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and when the British TV series came out, I looked forward to watching it with some reservations. I loved it.







It wasn’t historically accurate, but this didn’t worry me because I think it distilled the passion and the excitement of being involved in an art movement. Having lived as a starving artist in Melbourne, I can relate to this.

Instead of staid, stiff Victorians, the brotherhood came alive as young men, their lives full of passion, rivalry and self doubt. Characterisation again!

The web contains lots of useful tips on writing craft, here’s an article on characterisation that covers the nuts and bolts. Top 10 Questions for Creating Believable Characters, by Ginny Wiehardt.

Richard Harland has written 145 pages on the craft of writing with a whole section on characterisation.

And here, from the Writing Room, there’s an article on How to Write Great Characters.

What made the TV series about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood come to life for me was their character flaws. They were whole people. They made mistakes, they embarrassed themselves, they cared passionately, they failed to see through things and they tried to repair mistakes – they were human.

Whenever I run a workshop on characterisation I cover all the usual things. Then I ask the attendees to come up with two words to describe their character. The words have to be conflicting. So we end up with a Cynical-Romantic, or a Faithless-Priest. Once you distill your character into two conflicting words, you have the core of their inner conflict.

And just to show how important characterisation is:








Have you seen any movies or read any books recently, where the characters lived on for you afterwards?

7 comments:

Brendan said...

I can totally see Mr Bean on Pandora. He would have been flying high on his dragon-thing paying more attention to all the hooba nuts he had collected than where he was going, so when the beast swerved, he would drop a nut. There would be an insanely funny shot of him juggling the hoobas still in his hand while simultaneously grabbing for the dropped hooba that he had caught on his foot.

With a final lunge he would grab the errant hooba but in doing so fall off his dragon and onto the Big Meanie below.

Another comic scene would follow as it tries to get him off its back and eat him, while he is trying to both stay alive and keep hold of all the hooba nuts.

The final shot would be the beast landing amongst the other Pandorians with Mr Bean on it backwards, bum up, holding the sole remaining hobba nut he still has. Then one of the runner beasts would come up and eat it.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Brendan. I wondered what that photo Rowena posted was. Now I know why that Pandoran was so familiar!

I can see a good scene there where Mr Bean gets chased around by those floaty seed things. I can see one hovering around his nose and him snorting and waving it away 'No, no.'

Now Mr Bean is definitely one character I remember.

matapam said...

I think that picture has scared everyone else away.

Good links, Rowena.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, I'm late to the party -- just coming out from under a bad sinus attack/infection/whatever. Great links...but the Mr. Bean is scaaaaaary!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Hi Guys,

Back from Tasmania, feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the world.

The Mr Bean thing was meant to show that even blue skinned and looking alien, he was still recognisable as Mr Bean.

matapam said...

Actually an interesting point. I've wondered if I don't tend to transplant characters from one world to another. Yeah, right, he's got blonde hair and an irritating habit of chewing on toothpicks, but he's acting a lot like . . .

Anthony J Langford said...

Great pic..

Yes too true.. something the series writers of The Pacific forgot about.. characters and their journeys.. rather than one battle scene after another.. what a disappointment..

As spectacular as James Cameron films are, seeing we are referring to Avatar, that's one thing he always keeps up front and centre.. Character.. all of his films have strong, well written characters... Without them, there is nothing.. I think they are more important than plot..

If there are no people to care about or no interesting characters then the rest is padding.. or just plain dull...