I’m asking you to imagine that two in my photo are characters of a story. And consider the significance of their posture: their backs are to each other. This is meant to be a visual representation of “my word against your word” kind of storyline. As you can tell from the picture, it’s hard for the characters to work together since they can’t really hear each other. It’s a stalemate of sorts for it also has the power to kill your story.
Why? Those storylines ask audiences to pass value judgments on characters to determine what one we like best. And this becomes about a competition of pitting your characters against each other. This is okay except those storylines don’t appeal to today’s audiences in the way they once did. The reason is that this simple black and white thinking no longer works since we now acknowledge that humans are complex. We also want to see characters that better represent all of us rather than be perfect. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s why characters like Superman have Kryptonite.
It’s also time to consider your audience is not likely going to want to continue with your character if the audience has written your character off with a judgment. This is not to say that you only write benign characters that open doors for people and bring their own grocery bags to the grocery store. Please shoot me now if that is the direction of characters for I remember a great episode of “South Park” where they make fun of how we’re losing sight of everything in the name of political correctness. Okay. It’s been a while. And I’m sure that “South Park” has had many episodes that do this. But you get my point.
So… Get your characters to do both good and evil whether they are the good guys or the bad guys. A different thing to remember is that the bad guys believe themselves to be the good guys in their own stories. One only needs to look at “Breaking Bad” to know this to be the case. The other aspect to that would be that it keeps your audience on their toes about your characters instead of writing them off because they will get the chance to know your character better. (Judgements tend to close people’s minds.)
Plus, that is also imperative when it comes to relationship stories. Your audience won’t support the characters getting together if they have completely written off one of the characters. An example is the character of Hardin in the AFTER movie. I happened to have read the book. And this is a spoiler for the book that didn’t make it into the movie. It’s where Hardin shows his buddies the bloody sheets from when he deflowers Tessa. I’m willing to bet that they cut that from the movie since it makes him look unredeemable and unworthy of Tessa. It’s also a total he said/she said for his friends tell Tessa all about it while Hardin denies it. (I’ll also let you in on a secret: all stories are relationship stories if they are any good.)
And the last piece to consider these kinds of storylines is that there is nowhere for the characters to go. It’s due to the fact that they are both essentially saying no each other. No is another word for stop. We can’t go anywhere else with this. I honestly think this is why improv teaches things like “Yes and…” for it can drive more story and push it to all sorts of possibilities.
Have a great night!