- Slides: 44
Characters and characterization
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 is the main focus of the work. – Wikipedia
Characterization • Characterization is the many ways that characters are constructed for the audience member. The narrator can explicitly state information about a character or can provide information that implies certain things about a character.
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 characters that have been 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 • A flat character is distinguished by its lack of detail and depth. • The great majority of characters are flat. • 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. Some of these characters include the country bumpkin, the con artist, and the city slicker. • These characters are often the basis of 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
Not all characters are people • Characters can be any psychological presence or personality that takes action or is acted upon in a story. – Animals – Robots – Aliens – Artificial intelligence – Magical beings – Spirits/ghosts – Even objects
Dynamic v. static • 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 the character – 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 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
What Makes a Good Character?
Propp’s Analysis of Russian Folk Tales • Propp concluded that all the characters could be resolved into only 7 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 could sometimes be distributed among various characters, as the hero kills the villain dragon, and the dragon's sisters take on the villainous role of chasing him. Conversely, a single character could take on more than one role, as a father could send his son on the quest and give him a sword, acting as both dispatcher and donor.
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 subarchetypes within Jung's structure.
• These authors include Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley, whose Dramatica defines 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" & "Reconsideration". • 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
• Jung outlined 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 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
• A single character may fulfill more than one archetypal role. A complex character may blend characteristics from different archetypes. According to one writer/psychologist: • Though in stories the archetypes are. . . fragmented into individual characters, in real life each of us carries qualities of each archetype. If we didn't, we wouldn't be able to relate to characters who represent the archetypes we were missing.
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 sybolized: • • • 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. • Many practitioners of cultural criticism and feminist criticism focus their analysis of characters on cultural stereotypes. In particular, they consider the ways in which authors rely on and/or work against stereotypes when they create their characters. • 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
• In the 1980 s and 1990 s, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) made efforts to improve the portrayals of Aboriginal people in its television dramas. Spirit Bay, The Beachcombers, North of 60 and The Rez used Native actors to portray their own people, living real lives and earning believable livelihoods in identifiable parts of the country.
• U. S. television has been slower to respond to criticisms of native stereotyping. • Stereotyped issues include simplistic characterizations, romanticization of Native culture, and “stereotyping by omission” showing American Indians in a historical rather than modern context.
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. • Frequently authors base stories on themselves or their loved ones. Sometimes writers create composite characters based on two or more individuals. • Many critics devote their time to seeking out real people on whom literary figures were likely based.
Character as words • Some language- or text-oriented critics emphasize that characters are nothing more than certain conventional uses of words on a page: names or even just pronouns repeated throughout a text. They refer to characters as functions of the text.
Character as patient • Psychoanalytic criticism usually treats characters as real people possessing complex psyches. Psychoanalytic critics approach literary characters as an analyst would treat a patient, searching their dreams, past, and behavior for explanations of their fictional situations.
• Alternatively, some psychoanalytic critics read characters as mirrors for the audience's psychological fears and desires. Rather than representing realistic psyches then, fictional characters offer readers a way to act out psychological dramas of their own in symbolic and often hyperbolic form. – Freud’s analysis of Oedipus
Actor and character • With the rise of the "star" system in Hollywood, many famous actors are so familiar that it can be hard to limit our reading of their character to a single film. In some sense, Bruce Lee is always Bruce Lee, Woody Allen is always Woody Allen, Tom Cruise is always Tom Cruise, and Harrison Ford is always Harrison Ford; all often portray characters that are very alike, so audiences fuse the star persona with the characters they tend to play.
How can the nature of a character be revealed to the audience member? • The narrator can describe the character directly: – She was tall and muscular, but with dark eyes and a soft voice • The thoughts of the character about herself can be revealed through focalization techniques • Other characters can describe her • The character can describe herself
• The actions and thoughts of a character can provide clues to the character’s personality, etc. – Actions and thoughts can be revealed directly or through focalization techniques, other characters’ talk, etc.