Story, Character & Baggage

After reading Chapter One, I found it really helpful to learn about the different types of characters, the different types of heroes, and the different types of stories. Of course, I’m aware of these things when I watch a movie normally, but I’m not dissecting every character trait and piece of plot as it’s unveiled. Reading about these things almost felt like learning how the human body works – I don’t often think about all the different pieces and parts that work together to make the whole!

Reading the traits of a “Hemingway hero” (for example) makes them seem more like a character and less like someone living in my neighborhood; in a weird way, it makes the character seem flat, like they’re bound by their traits and nothing else. Naturally, they are, because these aren’t real people, but interpretations and combinations of real people. It’s weird to look at film characters as exactly that, and not real people. Thinking about it now, the “Hemingway hero” characters are ones that I’m drawn to most often. I’m a fan of his writing, so it makes sense that I’m drawn to characters with traits similar to the ones he created!


If you get a chance, google “hemingway memes“. 

The one piece that didn’t totally blow my mind was the chapter on conflict. All of those categories were things that I totally use to screen movies on – for instance, I’m not a fan of Man vs. Nature. That whole idea just has zero appeal for me, so if I pick up a movie like 127 Hours, chances are I’ll set it back on the shelf (which is exactly what I did with that movie – I was not about to see beautiful James Franco literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.) Conflict has to happen in movies to keep the plot moving and to keep the audience interested; a movie without any sort of conflict is just boring.


How is he so calm?!

Overall, reading about what makes a story, what makes a character, and what makes a story important was way more interesting that I anticipated. I’m pretty evenly torn between what draws me to a film more, whether it’s character or story. I love both. A good story can carry a poor character, but then again, a good character can carry a poor story. A good example of this is The Princess Bride – that is such a hard story to translate to a screenplay. That book was William Goldman’s baby, and it stressed him out so bad to be on set as the screenwriter that he missed many days of filming. Thankfully, the writers were able to do justice to his story and created an incredible plot for the characters to live with. The story is larger than life and so are the characters, and thankfully that translated to the silver screen.


William Goldman, drawn by Bo Hampton, with Westley as the Man in Black and Buttercup.

A really great example of a story that has become super important to people is the Star Wars franchise. The reboot this year was HUGELY popular and will surely remain so with this new generation of viewers. I stumbled across a short article that asked, what’s more important? The Star or the Story? It talked about how once a story reaches a level of popularity, of cultural significance, much like star wars has – it doesn’t matter who’s in the movie or who the characters themselves are. All that matters is continuing that narrative. In this case, the character or “star” has been eclipsed by the story.

So if I had to choose, I would say this: “A moment between characters is the stuff stories are made of.” Thankfully, someone already said that for me – visit the hyperlink to see a cool webpage with some great quotes about character creation and plot development!



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