Thursday, January 16, 2014

It's STILL the characters, stupid

A dramatic problem (suffering) is always about someone rather than something. Someone - some character - is acting to undermine or threaten the safety of another character or group of characters, or a character is threatened by a force of nature or super-nature. The problem is only ever definable in terms of who is experiencing it and where it may lead them. You can’t make drama out of a job, or a sack of money, or a property, not unless it is related to the well-being, safety, comfort or otherwise of characters. Problems must be personal if they are to be dramatic problems. The solutions, as well, are not ideas, or treaties, but persons - characters who hunt down the clues, who supply the needs, who fight the fight.

Some times I wonder if the prevalence of passive characters in so many of the screenplays I have read is due in part to something more dramatic than laziness or lack of talent. Perhaps the presence of such characters is an expression of some kind of misguided strategy for explaining oneself into the hearts and minds of one’s readers. On one level, they might indicate that the writer simply hasn’t done the work, but on another level, perhaps the passive character is symptomatic of some raw, ill-managed fear, the unwitting embodiment of some personal neurosis that vicariously seeks to avoid failure by avoiding being anything at all. 

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