proactive characters

Building Character: Who’s Driving This Thing?

This is the second in a periodic series about characterization in writing. Please check out my first post in the series, which looks at a character’s role in the Story Mind as expressed in the Dramatica Theory of storytelling.

A story begins when something changes the status quo.

Luke Skywalker doesn’t start becoming a hero until two droids crash on his planet. John McClane doesn’t become a terrorist-fighting cowboy cop until Hans Gruber takes hostages in an office building. Hamlet doesn’t start on his murder investigation/rampage of revenge until he gets a mysterious visit from a restless ghost. Even a feel-good romantic comedy like Sleepless in Seattle needs a trigger to set things in motion — in this case, Sam Baldwin’s son Jonah calling a late-night radio talk show.

People don’t spontaneously change their lives for no reason; an external trigger of some kind has to change the balance and push the protagonist into becoming a protagonist. Joseph Campbell called this “The Call to Adventure,” and it’s always something outside the protagonist’s control.

What really sets characters apart from one another is what they do next.

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Posted by chriswlester in Writing