The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, May 28, 2012

What Is A Character?

What is a Character?

I'm listening to a really brilliant talk on Writing Thrillers (it was done by a guy named Barnes at the Write on the River conference about ten days ago...oh, all right, I'm busted. It was me. But it really is great stuff) and one of the questions that arises is: what is a character? Or in the framework of the Hero's Journey, what or who is the "Hero" who is undergoing the journey?

Let's back up a bit, because both the Hero's Journey and the Chakras, the core of my teaching pedagogy, relate to the two questions at the root of human existence and awareness. Those two questions: "Who am I" and "What is True"?

The Chakras simply details the internal structure of a human being (different levels of growth or being) while the Hero's Journey relates to how a human being must interact with the world in order to progress as a spirit (or psychologically). In the process of the journey, he or she maps and explores reality, and asks the question "what is true?"

In a "trivial" film like "Avengers" the "who am I" is addressed for several characters as follows, moving between the "presenting personality" and the "real character":
Tony Stark's external personality: egotistical playboy. Real personality: self-sacrificing hero.
Captain America's external personality: "fish out of water Lost Boy." Real personality: natural inspirational leader.
Bruce Banner's external personality: reserved and terrified of his own anger. Real personality: totally in control and eager to smash.
Black Widow: external personality: cold and practical. Real personality: a woman in love, and deeply ashamed of her past as seductress/assassin.

And so it goes. By drawing a line between external character and internal character, even a "comic book" movie triggers our experience of our own duality...and sets up a dichotomy powerful enough to fuel a juggernaut.


(And all that thought was triggered by a single line from the talk I gave. Can't wait until I can offer you the whole thing!)


Terry H said...

Looking forward to it!

Unknown said...

I really need a like button here.
Good to read.