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STORY ELEMENT: Character
Transcript of STORY ELEMENT: Character
1275–1325; < Latin < Greek charaktḗr graving tool, its mark, equivalent to charak- (base of charáttein to engrave) + -tēr agent suffix;
Physical description: what the person looks like, dresses like, how the person carries herself, how sits and walks, etc. Anything that you can see about her that gives us clues to who she is. Choose these physical attributes as part of the character.
Background: Who is this person? Where was she raised, what does she know how to do, what kind of jobs has she held, what special skills does she have, what education does she have, etc. This is her past experience that shapes who she becomes.
Personality: What kind of person is she? This includes demeanor, temperment, etc. Find actions that illustrate this or characters saying it. Examples include: shy, outgoing. angry, impulsive, fearful, etc. Note that this may change according to the circumstances, but a person’s personality usually guides how they respond to situations.
Relationships: How does she get along with people? Does she have a lot of friends, or only a few close friends? Does she get along with her family? Why or why not? Does she hate everyone? Fall in love too quickly? Have an ongoing rivalry with her sister?
Words and Actions: What does the person say and do, and what do others say about your character or do with or to her? Watch for topics the person talks about a lot, for example, or words that are repeated; if the word is repeated, it’s probably important. Watch also for what other characters say about your character both to her and behind her back. Is there a difference? What does that tell you?
Motivation: Why does your character do what she does? Note that motivations include money, fear, desire for fame, need to prove parents wrong, need to prove parents right, etc. Their motivation may be what they want, such as money, or it could be what they are trying to get away from, such as fear. Note that the goal may or may not clear from the motivation. Put what they want in your description, too.
Conflict: What is standing in the way of your character getting what he or she wants? Note that sometimes we can be in conflict with ourselves. Look at this carefully: it usually drives the plot (or at least the general sequence of events in the story) and one definition is to figure out what your character wants and deny her that!
Change: Don’t just tell us whether she changes over the course of the story. Tell me how she does. She is nicer, or more considerate, etc. -- Remember that not all characters change. James Bond never gets to the end of an adventure and says, “All these fast cars, women, and martinis are so shallow. I should join the Peace Corps and do something important with my life.”
Not EVERYTHING someone says tells us about him or her. If you ask me a question and I give you a direct answer, then that’s not revealing. If I answer every question with, “Who wants to know?” that could be.
Yes, I know, you learned this in middle school: man against man, man against himself, man against nature. Very nice. Now, think about conflict this way:
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The study of a character requires an analysis of its relations with all of the other characters in the work. The individual status of a character is defined through the network of oppositions that it forms with the other characters. The relation between characters and the action of the story shifts historically, often miming shifts in society and its ideas about human individuality, self-determination, and the social order.
The character's interaction with others can be the defining thing:
proairetic - action oriented—those plot events that lead to other actions.
pragmatic - practical—those plot events that are necessary for realistic believablity.
linguistic - verbal—those plot events which center around dialogue or monologue.
proxemic - social—those plot events relating to relationships and "social distance"
Source: The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (by Kier Elam )
Everybody has an opinion about "character"
The character's "heroic status" can be the defining thing:
...a flawed hero, much like a tragic hero - but he's not bound to the pattern.
Like a tragic hero an anti-hero has some sort of character flaw that often hinders their ability to be a hero.
The (epic) Hero
Traditionally in literature a hero is a character who possesses a strong moral fiber.
This is a character that seems to always do to right thing, no matter what the situation!
A hero has a strong conviction, is dynamic, and/or has a certain magnetism that draws the reader to him/her.
A hero does not necessarily complete their journey on their own, but they are the central character in the story.
A literary hero will complete the traditional Hero Cycle.
The Tragic Hero
A tragic hero is often used in Shakespearean literature.
This model of a hero may not always be a “good guy”.
The tragic hero has made its way into more contemporary literature because audiences can relate to them.
[A tragic hero usually follows a twelve step pattern.]
Step 1 – A protagonist of high estate
Step 2 – A tragic flaw in character
Step 3 – Intrusion of time, sense or urgency
Step 4 – Misreading/Rationalizations
Step 5 – Murder, exile, alienation of enemies and allies
Step 6 – Gradual isolation of Tragic Hero
Step 7 – Mobilization of opposition
Step 8 – Recognition of tragic flaw, too late
Step 9 – Last courageous attempt to restore greatness.
Step 10 – Audience recognizes potential for greatness.
Step 11 – Death of tragic hero.
Step 12 – Restoration of order.
Though an Anti-Hero may not do the right thing all the time, a reader is drawn to the Anti-Hero.
Unlike a tragic hero the Anti-Hero will not always die.
The concept of an Anti-Hero is often used in darker literature.
The Anti-Hero is being used a lot more in modern literature as authors try to portray villains as complex characters
...but an Anti-Hero relates to the audience because the Anti-Hero displays more humanity than a regular Hero.
Instead of a standard tragic flaw an Anti-Hero may try to do what is right by using questionable means.
Anti-Heroes can be obnoxious.
Anti-Heroes can be pitiful.
Anti-Heroes can be awkward.
Anti-Heroes can be passive.
Anti-Heroes' efforts may always end in failure.
Anti-Heroes may be unable to commit to or trust traditional values of society.
Anti-Heroes may never “get a break” in life, moving from one disappointment to another.
Creating a CHARACTER:
(Source: Jennifer Ansbach)
Source: 42 Entertainment
Source: Brackin Circular Model of ARG Development
A persona is a fictional character. Sometimes the term means the mask or alter-ego of the author; it is often used for first person works and lyric poems, to distinguish the writer of the work from the character in the work. Often the "voice" of the poem is from the persona not the author.
Characters may be classified...
as round (three-dimensional, fully developed, complex, realistic)
as flat (having only a few traits or only enough traits to fulfill their function in the work, simple, stock)
as dynamic (developing, changing, learning)
as static (unchanging, predictable, set in ways)
A foil is a secondary character who contrasts with a major character; in Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras, whose fathers have been killed, are foils for Hamlet.
Coined by E.M. Forster
A character who contrasts with another character (usually the hero) in order to highlight various features of that other character's personality, throwing these characteristics into sharper focus.
A foil is not bad or evil (necessarily) but serves a function of "contrast" in the story.
Foil is strongly tied to point of view.
Really interesting things can be done with a foil when the protagonist is not the focus of the work.
Usually, but not always the "protagonist"
Villain comes from the Anglo-French and Old French vilein, which itself descends from the Late Latin word villanus, meaning "farmhand," in the sense of someone who is bound to the soil of a villa, which is to say, worked on the equivalent of a plantation in Late Antiquity, in Italy or Gaul. It referred to a person of less than knightly status and so came to mean a person who was not chivalrous. As a result of many unchivalrous acts, such as treachery or rape, being considered villainous in the modern sense of the word, it became used as a term of abuse and eventually took on its modern meaning.
Vladimir Propp concluded that a fairy tale had only eight dramatis personae, of which one was the villain.
None of these acts necessarily occurs in a fairy tale, but when any of them do, the character that performs the act is the villain. The villain therefore could appear twice: once in the opening of the story, and a second time as the person sought out by the hero.
The actions that fell into a villain's sphere were:
a story-initiating villainy, where the villain caused harm to the hero or his family
a conflict between the hero and the villain, either a fight or other competition
pursuing the hero after he has succeeded in winning the fight or obtaining something from the villain
An antagonist is a character, group of characters, or an institution, that represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend. In other words, 'A person, or a group of people who oppose the main character, or the main characters.' In the classic style of story where in the action consists of a hero fighting a villain, the two can be regarded as protagonist and antagonist, respectively. The antagonist may also represent a major threat or obstacle to the main character by their very existence, without necessarily deliberately targeting him or her.
Example: The Counsel of Elrond
A quick note:
This can go terribly wrong...