Apparently our brains work hardest when we’re being social, i.e. communicating with each other, checking other people out. We’re all fascinated with the journey of what it is to be a human being, to vicariously experience what other people’s inner and physical journeys are like. We humans have always been fascinated with storytelling. Most of us are enriched by the windows stories can open for us, windows with horizons we may not conceive of by ourselves.
I love stories where the character/s develop and grow as they overcome conflicts and come to terms with complications and obstacles in the plot. In short, he/she’s not the same person he/she was at the beginning of the story. For me, well-crafted character development (whether told by book or through film) offers us important things; new insights, warnings, hope, permission to dream, a reminder that we’re not alone on our journey.
Great authors express a character’s interior life through their words, great actors express this through their acting on screen.
How a character develops must be believable. Have you ever read a book or watched a movie when the main character, after totally sweeping you away, does something totally OUT of character, or just plain dumb? There was room on that raft in Titanic for two to survive. My daughter tells me I’m missing the point and entering treacherous waters bringing up Titanic. What about when a TV series doesn’t know when to stop milking its popularity, and characters do stupid things they’d never have considered in the first season? I get wrenched from the story, thrown straight back to reality on the lounge, wondering why I’d bothered to get so wound up and munch my way to the bottom of the popcorn bowl. The story wasn’t worth the calories.
Unfortunately, there are also plenty of stories where the protagonist (who should develop) remains as unchanging as the Violet Crumble wrapper from my childhood. Why take us on this journey, like a lame ride at an amusement park, unless it’s to make a specific point?
On to better things:
Great stories for character development –
(Some are books, most are movies – because they were ripe for the screen. Romance is not a major theme today – that’s for the next blog)
Green Eggs and Ham – Dr Seuss
I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew – Dr Seuss
Sneetches and Other Stories – Dr Seuss
The Paper Bag Princess – Robert Munsch
Where The Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak. Movie 2009
Holes – Louis Sachar. Movie 2003 (Sigourney Weaver, John Voight, Shia Labeouf, Patricia Arquette, Henry Winkler)
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien. Movie 2012
The Help – Kathryn Stockett. Movie 2011
The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd. Movie 2008 (A young girl comes to terms with her guilt in South Carolina 1964)
As It Is In Heaven – Movie 2004 (Described as the best thing to come out of Sweden since Abba. Starring Michael Nyqvist. Great music too.)
Girl Interrupted – Susanna Kaysen. Movie 1999 (Account of author’s 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. Starring Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder.)
Rain Man – Movie 1998 (Road-trip story about an autistic savant and his selfish, callow brother. Starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.
Looking for Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta. Book, Movie 2000. (A coming of age story, told with wonderful depth and humour). Also Marchetta’s novel, Saving Francesca.
Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman has character development, surprises and imaginative plot twists down to a fine art, eg Coraline, Neverwhere etc. Gaiman is the exciting roller coaster ride at the amusement park. But Anansi Boys is one of my FAVOURITE stories for character development. If I say too much I’ll give the story away. The clever twist is reminiscent of Jungian sub-personalities and resonated for me whilst writing my novel, Arafura.
I will leave ROMANCE + CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT = SATISFACTION for my next blog, so please put on your thinking caps!
In the meantime, any stories with great character development (minus the lurv) that sparked your interest?