Chaos Attraction

Character Arcs

2014-04-05, 9:06 a.m.


(Movies are mentioned within this post! Captain America 2 is briefly mentioned but stays pretty spoiler-free (shocking), Veronica Mars is mentioned for longer and is not spoiler-free. If you do not want to know this movie information for some reason, stop after the first paragraph mentioning that movie. Kthanxbai!)

I woke up feeling better today. I got a lot of errands done. I went to Napa Auto Parts to get the "gunk" for class and found out that yes, they do have used coveralls for sale there. And apparently despite my being short, the "large" size is what fit. Go figure. Well, that saved me from going to Sacramento to look for the things, so yay there. They also said they could order Volvo parts for me when I need them, so yessssssssss to that. I dropped off my broken microwave. I went to the gym. I went to the arts center renaming party thing and got a free T-shirt. And other than that, I spent the rest of the day at the movies.

I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the afternoon. HOLY CRAP THAT WAS POSSIBLY EVEN BETTER THAN AVENGERS FOR SHEER HOLY CRAP STATUS. They basically just blew a lot of that world and a television show out of the water. Now I'm kinda sorry I won't be home Tuesdays to see how the hell the show deals with THAT. My, my. I'm sorry Chris Evans is going on about how much he hates acting now, because he does this character incredibly well. It's gotta be hard being such a straight arrow straight man woobie, but he does it sooooooo well. And while I'm annoyed there's no Black Widow movie (come oooooooooooon), this was almost as much her movie as his, so I liked that too. Plus Falcon was adorable. And Nick Fury and Maria Hill had some badass moments. As did some random people I won't spoilerize about. But hooooooo boy, it was good. I'm glad I saw it as soon as I could. This is about my last free weekend before Birthday Season kicks into high gear, so I'm gonna enjoy as much down time as I can get tomorrow.

Much to my delight, I found out pretty much accidentally that the Veronica Mars movie was playing in town at the tiny theater this weekend! Wasn't even posted on the Kickstarter list, which kinda annoys me....and probably explains why it had a small crowd....and was playing once a 8:40.... for four their TINY theater at the back. Sigh. Well, at least some people came out. I did notice more things about it here and there on the "big screen" that I hadn't noticed as much, so that was nice. Still love the movie. As I left, some lady behind me was all, "Well, why didn't anyone die at your high school reunion?" and her husband was all, "While at it, or before?"

I didn't get around to writing a review of the movie or anything (and while I'd love to do one on CA:TWS, the spoiler potential is just too great to the point where I, the spoiler queen, don't wanna wreck it for ya if you can't get to the movies yet) when it got sent to me online a few weeks ago. But something I have been thinking about off and on ties in with this awesome Jennifer Crusie series of posts on character arcs:

"An example of a plot arc is a stable story world in which someone is murdered. The story world is thrown into disarray because there’s a killer loose, and as the characters try harder and harder to catch the killer and the killer tries harder and harder to escape detection, the plot arcs in tension, danger, and stakes until finally the detective and the killer meet in the climax, the killer is arrested, and the world of the story returns to stability. This is external plot arc because you’re talking about events between two characters.

An example of character arc is a person who is in a stable situation and who is thrust out of that stability by events (see plot arc) at the beginning of the story and is therefore forced to do things he or she normally wouldn’t in order to survive. While the actions the character takes are part of the plot arc, the impact of the actions changes the character, forces him or her to cross psychological boundaries that were uncrossable before, and with each boundary crossed, the character changes, over and over again, each change greater, until at the end, the character fights the last battle in the plot arc, forever changed emotionally and psychologically from the battle, and achieves psychological stability again, his or her character arc finished. This is internal character arc because you’re talking about emotional/psychological changes within the character."

I think the Veronica Mars movie does both of these well. The plot arc is kicked off by a murder, but Veronica is in a relatively stable situation (about to get a boring lawyer job in NYC, shacked up with her nice-but-doofusy college boyfriend*) and is pretty well bored out of her fucking mind. After returning to Neptune, she finds more and more reasons that she wants to stay there (Logan and investigating a case again), and she pretty much passively lets the job and doofusy boyfriend move on without her. Her dad is clearly sad about that, but Veronica...clearly isn't.

* And I'd like to point out that when Veronica and Piz's sex tape is played at the Neptune college reunion, Wallace is the one that runs to disable the projector (smart boy), Logan goes to punch people out (less smart, but loyal), and Piz just stands there like a lummox. Dude. Then he proceeds to join the fight "because that's what men do, right?" Piz, this kinda shiz is why I cannot root for you as Veronica's boyfriend. You are unequipped to deal with Veronica's crazy life. Go find some nice Iowa farmgirl to date or something. Also, speaking of sex tapes, I did not notice at first how lame Logan's was by comparison. Feet? It's like the sex equivalent of the imaginary big smooch in An Affair To Remember. Logan, I am disappointed in your lack of creativity...but then again, the relationship was winding down.

This second post has kinda been haunting me. The question is: how do you get your characters to act?

"if characters don’t have goals, they don’t have any reason to act. So get those suckers some concrete goals. That is, they don’t want inner peace, they want the ark of the covenant. If your character’s goal is an abstract like inner peace or happiness, find something concrete that will represent that for him or her, something that she thinks will bring her inner peace or happiness if she achieves it. But it has to be concrete, something that exists as an object in the real world, so that she has to use her physical body to acquire it. It has to be something she has to move through physical space to get. Your character’s goal is so central to the entire story that if she doesn’t have one, you don’t have a story, so I’d go back and look at what made you want to write the story in the first place and see if there’s a concrete goal there that you missed.

The next step is to make sure that goal is life or death to the character. It can be a psychic death, but it has to be so great that he or she will cross boundaries to get it, it has to be essential to her well-being, to her concept of self. If she doesn’t get that goal, she’s not the person she thought she was, her identity will disintegrate, and she’ll die that psychic death (or real death, depending on her antagonist)."

And that's where I am failing IRL.

I saw a post the other day that pretty much sums it up?

"There’s also folks who have an easy time articulating their future goals. I call them “Reachers For.” There’s also “Movers Away From,” folks who can only really articulate things in the negative. “I don’t ever want to be starving again,” “I don’t want to have a job that sucks,” “I don’t want to date someone like that again.” They have a tremendously difficult time articulating things like, they want to go back to school, or find a more passionate and loving relationship, or succeed in their career."

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