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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Character driven or plot driven?

Ok, so when you are in the initial stages of developing your idea for a feature length script, this is the golden question you have to ask yourself. The answer is pretty easy, but what do you do with this answer?
This is what I want you to think about:

If it's CHARACTER DRIVEN, like the above pic(Rebel Without A Cause) - your character is what drives the story.

If it's PLOT DRIVEN, like the above pic(Raiders of the Lost Ark) - your plot is what drives the story, or the "action."

So, simple enough, but I've come across many beginning writers who don't get this. Mainly, the problems I've seen with the character driven script is that the writer really hasn't done all the work necessary with the character. Has not fully developed him or her, thus not making them three dimensional. 

Your main character, the protagonist, in a character driven script, must be well defined. How do we do this? Be creating goals which your character wants. By creating obstacles which your character has to overcome. Be creating flaws in your character - none of us in real life are flaw free, so don't write your character this way. 

We need to know why your character is troubled - like Jim in REBEL - we get why he's bothered. We get his troubles and we feel for him and route for him to overcome them. This is true with all character driven stories - the character drives the story, so the character is always interesting and very compelling. 

Empathy is also very important in character driven films. Why? Because we must feel for the character - as this is what drives our story - emotions and the character. We have to have empathy, we have to route for this person to overcome their troubles. Very important. 

More examples of great characters in character driven stories:
- Chow in "In The Mood For Love."
- Antoine in "The 400 Blows."
- Marcello in "La Dolce Vita."
- Bernard in "The Squid and the Whale."
- Stephane in "The Science of Sleep."
- Alvy in "Annie Hall"

The list goes on and on. I think you get the drift. In the next post, we'll get into the other option; plot driven stories.

Questions? Comments?

In creating great characters, look to your own lives - as we have so many interesting real people all around us.