Saturday, June 28, 2008

WRITING 101-PART3-CREATING A CHARACTER or WHY DID THE TITANIC SINK?


Answer: BECAUSE OF THE PESKY ICEBERG!

A character in a story is like an ice berg: only 1/5 of it is revealed to the vision of the beholder (the reader). The bigger chunk of it is hidden deep in the water. In the creation of a character, it is deliberately hidden because if everything is reveled all at once, there will be no more challenge to the reader.

However, it is MANDATORY that the writer who is creating this character must know his character inside out, or else, like the Titanic, he will bump against this ice berg and eventually sink.

Look at the image.

Area A is what the reader only sees. This area is the story proper. This is the world of your character where the story is taking place.

Area B is what the reader never sees, but an area that the writer must mandatorily know. Because, if you don't know your character inside out as the author... who will? Not Madame Auring or Rene Mariano for sure.


So what are we supposed to do to build a convincing, creative, authentic character that breathes with life?

A CHARACTER DOSSIER

Have a character sheet. Right down her name, her birthdate, her status in life, her mental capacity. Make sure to indicate her MAIN CHARACTER TRAIT and secondary character trait.

What is her:

• Religion
• Morals and sexual drive
• Superstitions
• Ambitions
• Desires
• Goals
• Height
• Weight
• Color of eyes, hair, complexion
• Posture, gait
• Eating habits
• appearance
• Health
• Nationality
• Social Class (both in ther [past & the present)
• I.Q. (intelligent or Boba)
• Home Life (When growing up– attitude towards parents, sibblings, relatives, friends, strangers)
• Amusements, hobbies, pleasures
• Faults and weaknesses
• Props in life: Cane? Baseball cap, jewellry. weapons, wheelchair
• Temperament
• Introvert/extrovert
• Imagination, sense of humor, weirdnes
• Views: environment, race, inequality, politics, issues
• Unusual or habitual gestures, expression, characteristic manner of speaking
• First impression on others
• civil status, sexual preference

and so on.

Do you know someone in real life that stands out? Why? Examine the reasons why. This will help as well. How does she treat herself? Is she too critical about her own personality? Is she over confident? Unsure of herself? Afraid of the world? Can she face and speak before a crowd? Is she shy?

In short, study her from the top of her head to tip of her toes.
Know her physical side, her mental side, her spiritual side if you will.

There is one very useful guide that helps me to create more distinct characters. I use Madame Auring's knowledge of the ZODIAC SIGNS. A pisces is totally different from a Taurus, for instance. A Leo is far from a Cancer. The zodiac opens doors for your characters. It is an open sesame to untold riches.

If you do it this way, every character that you create will be UNIQUE. It will be totally different from another character.

And when you have big scenes where several characters will be present, everyone will be totally distinct from one another. In a play I wrote in 1974 about Male Prostitutes called AMAG SA KARIMLAN, there were 6 call boy characters, 5 badings, and 1 woman. In the scenes where all the call boys appeared, each character is distinct because each one has a totally unique character and diction. Same thing happened with the badings. Though, because there was only one woman in the cast, she became the jewell, so to speak, in the play.


What is so handy with the character dossier is the fact that because you know him too well, whatever he does in the story, you will have all the CONTROL to keep him CONSISTENT within his character make up. In TV, Film & stage writing, distinct characters are a MUST when you have a big scene and all these characters appear in the same scene all together at the same time. If you don't bother to create your character with 3-dimensionality and distinction, I guarantee you that your scene will not survive. It will die a natural death, without a word, without a sigh.


Also, because you know the past of each character, you can suggest facts in the dialogs (in passing), for now, so that later in the story, the reader will be able to tie in all those mysterious dialogs afterwards. This is one good thing about the character dossier. YOU DON'T HAVE TO TELL YOUR AUDIENCE EVERYTHING. They will figure it out by themselves. However, if the past of your character is haphazardly written, it will be tragic for him (your character) and for you (the writer).


It is also good to write well-developed characters, well, maybe in komiks or prose, so that when it is time to translate it into a tele[play or screenplay, you already have the background for each character ready. Now, it will be more crucial to have stronger characters because TV and movies are several times much bigger in scope than komiks, but more restrictive in form than komiks. You see, in komiks, you can show and tell, even the minds of your characters are possible to reveal to the readers. Not in Teleplay or movies. You have to show it since you cannot draw think balloons on screen. With well-developed characters, the battle is half-won when the time comes for you to write the screenplay or teleplay.

Therefore, young writers, be smart. Have a character dossier, also known as the ICE BERG PRINCIPLE. It will make a lot of difference.

10 Comments:

Blogger Robby Villabona said...

I'm not a writer, but I suspect that one of the most challenging stories to write are unplotted comedies. Would Martin Scorsese's THE KING OF COMEDY be considered an unplotted story? What about WHEN HARRY MET SALLY?

June 29, 2008 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 29, 2008 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

THE KING OF COMEDY is a plotted story, falling under the category of PURPOSE ACCOMPLISHMENT STORY.
In this category, the main character has a goal and achieves his goal in the end, just like what happened to the Robert de Niro character. Although this film used the device of stream of consciousness (overlapping reality and fantasy from the De Niro character's POV), the character has definitely succeeded in fulfilling his goal which he summed up by saying: "better to be king for a night, than schmuck for a lifetime."

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, on the other hand, is a THEMATIC STORY, and the focal point of the material is its theme. Though it has all the the trimmings of a DECISION STORY, it is unplotted like what you figure out already, because it is the theme that was emphasized.

I must add that both films are extremely well-made and quite entertaining. And the problem wih comedies is that, not all writers have the ability to write funny materials. One has to be really gifted to capture the audience's imagination.

June 29, 2008 at 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe,

maganda itong ICE BERG PRINCIPLE mo, aka JM Lee's technique. Napapanahon na talaga na tayong mga pinoy ay dapat ng tumindig sa sarili natin mga paa at hindi depende sa mga TECHNIQUES lang ng mga puti o hapon.

Halimbawa sa komiks na lang, ang mga pinoy witers at illustrators ay karamihan mga gaya-gaya puto maya palagi, ang mga TECHNIQUES na ginagamit nila ay iyong mga TECHNIQUES ng mga puti o hapon. Magkakaruon lang ng sariling identity ang mga pinoy sa larangan ng pagsulat at pagguhit kung meron silang SARILING TECHNIQUES.

Kaya nga sa blog ko ay nilabas ko na ang aking mga TECHNIQUES duon na kagaya ng FLOR'S FOOT TECHNIQUE. Pero meron akong ilalabas na TECHNIQUE na maraming maasar talaga sa akin, itong technique na ito ay tinawag kung FLOR'S MONKEY TECHNIQUE, HHHHHHH .......

June 29, 2008 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Supremong Kapre:

Foot technique, kailangan diyan sanay ang paa mo sa pag-drawing. HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I was watching last night a TV series here in Canada, produced by the Canadian outfit SHOWCASE, a program about sex practices in different countries. Kagabi, ang ipinakita ay isang pintor from New Zealand.

PENIS niya ang ginagamit na brush sa pag-paint. HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Pambihira din itong penis technique na ito, at hindi masama ang resulta. Ewan ko lang kung hindi napupudpod yung ari niya sa pag-pinta ng ganito. Though hindi pa naman daw pala siya nagkakaroon ng infection from this technique.

Kabaliw talaga ito, Supremo. Baka mas appealing sa marami ang Foot technique mo kaysa sa penis technique. HHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

June 29, 2008 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Ay, hindi pala siya frpom New Zealand kundi from Australia. Ang pangalan niya ay PICASSO THE GREAT.

http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-32046420080220

and here's another one

http://www.inoutstar.com/news/Painting-With-Your-Penis-4796.html

June 29, 2008 at 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pero, Joe, ORIGINAL naman ang gawa nitong si PRICCASO, HHHHHHH ......., kaya lang ay baka mapudpod ang prick niya sa ganitong klaseng TECHNIQUE ng painting.

Ang puntong ito ay hindi naiintendihan ng maraming mga pinoy artists na gumagaya sa mga gawa ng mga puti o hapon. Mas sisikat sila kung meron silang ORIGINALITY sa gawa nila.

June 29, 2008 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Manoy Kapre,

Hindi yata TULI si PRICKCASSO kaya at least, yung kanyang PREPUCE ang nagiging brush, therefore yung glans penis mismo ay hindi mapupudpod sa canvas. Truly ingenious, I must say!
HHHHHHH.

June 29, 2008 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Robby Villabona said...

Are there such things as movies with both plotted and unplotted stories (episodic movies, like Magnolia, or some 90's Woody Allen movies, for example)?

July 1, 2008 at 5:53 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Yes. This type would fall under the so-called MULTIPHASE STORY. This is somewhat akin to Super Kapre's PINAKBET STYLE of drawing, if you still remember the previous PKMB site. HHHHHHHHH.

Though for beginners, this type is not easy to do because it obviously carries an advanced literary technique. If you're ambitious enough, be prepared to tackle a writing assignment that can potentially result in an artificial-looking story, and worse, a convoluted one that can be so confusing for your viewer.
The writer must emphasize CHARACTER and DECISION, and may also have the so-called VILLAIN DEFEATS HIMSELF ingredient to complete the package.

Watch a classic film noir called: THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942) with ALAN LADD. This film falls under Multiphase. Written under the hands of a capable writer, this type can be totally compelling.

You're also correct to mention those episodic TV series and Woody Allen films. Most of them fall under this category as well. If you remember THE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE and THE WALTONS, for example, they were both written this way. The movie THE THREE MUSKETEERS (utilized both purpose accomplishnent & purpose abandonment), CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS (purpose abandonment), FRANKENSTEIN (villain defeats himself).

Now, as more questions are asked, there may be a need to review what a PLOTTED STORY is?

July 1, 2008 at 9:20 AM  

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