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Some Thoughts on Character

Some Thoughts on Character

Every now and then, I find I run into something that makes me sit up and seriously take notice.

Generally this doesn’t happen at first. There might be a lot of eyerolling and sighing going on, but gradually it creeps up on you and in the end it’s so much in your face you can’t help but take a deeper interest than you originally intended.

Several moments hit me in the head just lately…

The first was seeing a new interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe in the movie The Raven. I was hoping for a horror film but got a damn good thriller that made me want to go back and reread what I knew of Poe and what I had first seen of his work many many years ago in Lit class.

It was so nicely done, with such a huge amount of respect for Poe’s work and for his desperately sad and grief stricken life, that he’s headed for Sylum.

The film turned him into a character that became somehow much more sympathetic and accessible. It gave him more layers than you’d first assume on perusing his materials. He was more than dark. He was difficult and weird and would have been a very interesting conversationalist if I could’ve sat him down and asked about his life.

The second moment of ‘flail! Whoa that’s awesome!’ came with reconsidering the film The Illusionist.

I’d seen it before and though based on a very so-so short story, it struck me as being worthy of watching more than once, and as that happened so Eisenheim’s character gradually came more and more to life for me in a complex and convoluted story that you have to not blink at or walk away from or you’ll miss the pointers.

He too is a complex man and he too will be heading to Sylum.

Y’see sometimes it’s all too easy to dismiss character, to gloss over it and to treat it as a two dimensional and shallow thing, especially in books and movies that are coming out just lately. Assumptions as to motivation, reasoning, speech, education, action/reaction, can be so weakly created and/or portrayed that in the end the audience is left with little but the feeling that what they’ve just read, watched or experienced is no more than a brief distraction in time with little impact upon their life.

Some might say it has a great deal to do with the ‘soundbite’ culture we live in, and the lack of attention span that is encouraged so much in mainstream media and the general social environment, but I’m not here to talk about that. I’m just throwing the thought out there is all.

The third moment that snuck up and hit me, came from Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. Yeah, I’d dismissed this as silly. The idea was just too daft for words, but then I watched the trailer; very well edited in the extreme and with music and voice over to make you sit up and pay attention. Then came the movie and finally the book. Yes yes, I tend to go for books after the movie or risk being disappointed with the film because the book is stuck in my head. And in the end, despite there still being moments of ‘really are you serious?’ in both of them, it was character that leapt out at me.

Character development and creation was so painstakingly done, and so very well represented on the screen, that as a result I can say it was the most enjoyable movie of the summer for me. But it took a while to really hit me in the head.

Yes sometimes there are too many other distractions and it’s too easy to gloss over a book or a film or a play, or a show or something, and yet it’s not hard to see when things are shallow, at least if you look at it with better eyes than those of the ‘just distract me with the shiny for five seconds’ mentality that we all suffer from to one degree or another.

Take time sometimes to really watch, to deeply read, to seriously consider, and then do it all over again.

It’s actually worth the effort once you start to go deeper into your subject matter and you’ll suddenly find yourself encouraged to want to know more.

Make character worthwhile.

Your readers and viewers will love you for it.


  1. adminblog

    I have to say all three of these characters have been some of the first in a long time that really got my attention. There’s been a few that I’ve sat up and gone oooh that has potential. Michael Weston is one of those… at first it’s like yeah typical but as show went on he had more depth, emotion and could really grab your attention – add some sylum elements and he becomes a full rounded character.

    – Bj

    1. Bob 2

      It can sometimes be easier with a TV show because you’re allowing that character to invade your home every week and grow on you! But Michael Weston is a good example. So too the guys from White Collar and Leverage!

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