Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Who Are You?

“If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.” - Richard Bach

“If I were invited to a dinner party with my characters, I wouldn't show up.” - Dr. Seuss

“Characters do not change. Opinions alter, but characters are only developed.” - Benjamin Disraeli

Characters welcome—USA Network cable tagline

What do all these quotes have in common? They have to do with characters.

This blog post is inspired by a conversation I had on Twitter last night regarding the Syfy TV show Warehouse 13.

I'm talking about staying true to your characters. In the 2nd season of this particular show, the writers have apparently lost their focus and forgot what exactly their characters are all about.

For example: There is a female vet in this fictional town who, all of a sudden, did an about face on the male lead (Pete) and slept with him after being vehement in season one she'd never do it. There was no reason that she did it. She just did.

Example 2: Arte (one of the other male leads) suddenly and irrevocably became hostile toward HG Wells (a female character) with nothing to back it up and no motivation.

This really annoys me, not just in TV shows but also in books that are on the market right now.

A writer must remember to stay in their character's head. They cannot just "change" why a character does something without sufficiently explaining it to the viewer or reader. Too many times an author will present a character one way, is adamant this character is this way then halfway through the book, with no reason or incident, the character does a 180 and is someone completely different. This is clearly a case of the writer not being "in the character's head" and not being invested in the character. A writer can't make this stuff up as they go along. There must be a firm reason for the behavior.

Be consistent folks. Viewers and readers aren't stupid. We know when you've fallen off the rails. At least give us the courtesy of showing us how and why the character is changing.

Nothing puts me off a TV show or a book faster than this. Unfortunately, in today's publishing world, this happens way too often. Maybe writers are creating books too fast. Maybe screenwriters are under pressure to slap something on a page. Maybe the folks in charge don't really care anymore about the quality of the work.

I don't know, but let me say, we're noticing and we're not amused. And what's more, we're talking about it. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and can make or break a book or a TV show. Don't give us a reason to be disgruntled.

Thanks for reading! I hope you have a terrific day!


Kathye Quick said...

Love Warehouse 13, but it does go all over the place at times. Imagine what would happen if we sent a manuscript like that to an editor or agent. Can you say first UPS truck home?

Thanks for this thoughtful post

Sandra Sookoo said...

LOL I know! I always wonder about that and want to know how they get away with it.

Nerine Dorman said...

I **could** churn out a book every two months but I won't. My characters become very real to me and I like to make sure that they experience enough development.

Sandra Sookoo said...

I hear that Nerine, now please get the new writers out there to pay attention to it :-)