All stories have characters • Characters are fictive or real persons that think, act or are acted upon in a narrative • The term plot-driven is sometimes used to describe fiction in which a preconceived storyline is the main thrust, with the characters' behavior being molded by this inevitable sequence of events. Plot-driven is regarded as being the opposite of character-driven, in which the character(s are) the main focus of the work. • Wikipedia
Not all characters are people • Characters can be any psychological presence or personality • Animals • Robots • Aliens • Artificial intelligence • Magical beings • Spirits/ghosts • Even objects
Characterization • Characterization is the many ways that characters are constructed for the audience member. The narrator can explicitly provide character information or can provide information that implies things about a character.
Means of conveying character information to the audience • The narrator can describe the character directly: • “She was tall and muscular, but with dark eyes and a soft voice” • Other characters can describe her • To another character • To himself (internal focalization) • The character can describe herself • To another character • Internal focalization (VO)
A character’s actions and thoughts can provide clues to the character’s personality, etc. • Actions and thoughts can be revealed directly or through focalization techniques, other characters’ talk, etc.
Flat v. round characters • The depth with which the character is presented determines whether the character is ‘round’ (deep) or ‘flat’ (shallow)
Round characters • Round characters are fully developed by an author, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and are detailed enough to seem real. • Rarely can more than a few characters be ‘round’ • Too much detail, time spent in development, etc. • Stereotypic characters are efficient • Usually only main characters are round
Flat characters • Flat characters are distinguished by their lack of detail and depth. • Supporting characters are usually flat, as most minor roles do not require a great deal of complexity.
Stock characters • A number of stereotypical, or "stock" characters, have developed throughout the history of drama. • E.g., country bumpkin, con artist, city slicker. • Stock characters are often flat characters, though elements of stock characters can be found in round characters as well.
Stock characters • Stock characters are defined more by their role in the narrative than by their personality. • The sidekick • The prostitute with a heart of gold • The hired killer • The well-meaning but clueless parents • The unknown soldier brought along just to be killed
Propp’s Character Roles • Propp concluded that all the characters could be resolved into only7 broad character types in the 100 Russian Folk tales he analyzed: • The villain — struggles against the hero. • The donor — prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object. • The (magical) helper — helps the hero in the quest.
The princess and her father — gives the task to the hero, identifies the false hero, marries the hero, often sought for during the narrative. • Propp noted that functionally, the princess and the father can not be clearly distinguished. • The dispatcher — character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off.
The hero or victim/seeker hero — reacts to the donor, weds the princess. • False hero/anti-hero/usurper — takes credit for the hero’s actions or tries to marry the princess.
These roles can sometimes be distributed among various characters • E.g., the hero kills the villain dragon, and the dragon's sisters take on the villainous role of chasing him • A single character could take on more than one role • E.g, a father could send his son on a quest and give him a sword, acting as both dispatcher and donor
Dynamic v. static characters • A dynamic character is one who changes significantly during the course of the story. • changes in insight or understanding • changes in commitment • changes in values • Protagonists are often dynamic characters • Being changed by a quest • Coming of age • Gaining insight and wisdom
Dimensions of characterization • Physical appearance • Capabilities • Demographics • Personality • Behavior • Role • Relationships
What makes a good character? • Audience members can relate to him • One of the most important influences over the emotion generated in watching a narrative is whether the audience members can identify with the characters • Different audience members may identify with different characters
“Tim Shafer agreed that empathizing with characters is definitely the key. Great stories have characters that seem real, characters you can't stop thinking about. Characters you want to help. "It's hard to do," he confesses. But a memorable story will stick with you for years, and that empathy is the major reason why.” • “Why Isn't the Game Industry Making Interactive Stories?” www.gamespy.com
What makes a good character? • The character takes action based on some motivation • Not a ‘lump’ • Not merely reactive
What makes a good character? • Whatever strengths, weaknesses, personality quirks the the character has, she has them in abundance (but not to the point of neuroses) • Star Trek • Not unidimensional • Good guys have faults • Bad guys have redeeming qualities
Archetypes • Though Carl Jung identifed the first archetypes based on story patterns in 1919, authors like Joseph Campbell and James Hillman continued the work he'd begun. Other authors have reorganized the information, often blending Jungian archetypes or recognizing sub-archetypes within Jung's structure.
Jung’s four main archetypes: • The Self, the regulating center of the psyche and facilitator of individuation • The Shadow, the opposite of the ego image, often containing qualities that the ego does not identify with but possesses nonetheless • The Anima, the feminine image in a man's psyche • The Animus, the masculine image in a woman's psyche
Although the number of archetypes is limitless, there are a few particularly notable, recurring archetypal images: • The Syzygy • The Child • The Hero • The Great Mother • The Wise old man • The Trickster or Fox
The Puer Aeternus (Latin for "eternal boy") • The Cosmic Man • The artist-scientist • The Scarlet Women • The Faceless Man
Dramatica • Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley’s Dramaticadefines eight different archetypes defined by their "Action" and "Decision" characteristics: • Driver Characters: • Protagonist: "... the driver of the story: the one who forces the action." Defined by "Pursue" and "Consideration" characteristics. • Jungian equivalent: Hero • Antagonist: "... the character directly opposed to the Protagonist." "Prevent" & "Re-consideration". • Jungian equivalent: Shadow • Guardian: "... a teacher or helper who aids the Protagonist..." "Help" & "Conscience" • Jungian equivalent: Wise Old Man or Wise Old Woman, also sometimes referred to collectively as The Mentor • Contagonist: "... hinders and deludes the Protagonist..." "Hinder" & "Temptation"
Passenger Characters • Reason: "... makes its decisions and takes action on the basis of logic..." "Control" & "Logic" • Emotion: "... responds with its feelings without thinking..." "Uncontrolled" & "Feeling" • Sidekick: "... unfailing in its loyalty and support." "Support" & "Faith". • Skeptic: "... doubts everything..." "Oppose" & "Disbelief" • Jung's Trickster archetype often overlaps here, since its purpose is to question and rebel against the established way of doing things • Wikipedia
Character as symbol • In some readings, certain characters are understood to represent a given quality or abstraction. Rather than simply being people, these characters stand for something larger. • Characters have symbolized: • Christ • Capitalist greed • The futility of fulfilling the American Dream • Romanticism • Feminism • Wikipedia
Character as Representative • Another way of reading characters symbolically is to understand each character as a representative of a certain group of people. • Concern over stereotyping • Stock characters
The Media Awareness Network of Canada (MNet) has prepared a number of statements about the portrayals of American Indian and Alaskan Natives in the media: • “Westerns and documentaries have tended to portray Natives as stereotypes: the wise elder, the aggressive drunk, the Indian princess, the loyal sidekick. These images have become ingrained in the consciousness of all North Americans.”
Native Americans have been stereotyped as nature lovers who believe that all people must respect it. • Hollywood's portrayal of the American West essentially used Native tribes as a malignant presence to be wiped out or reined in. • Portrayals of Native characters as primitive, violent and deceptive, or as passive and full of childlike obedience, extended to TV, novels and comics. • Media Awareness Network
Characters as historical or biographical references • Sometimes characters obviously represent important historical figures. • Nazi-hunter Yakov Liebermann in The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin is often compared to real life Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal • Corrupted populist politician Willie Stark from All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren is often compared to Louisiana governor Huey P. Long.
Character popularity • http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/show-patrol/2010/03/best-tv-character-tournament-round-1.html