Thursday, June 25, 2009

Emotion Driven Characters

By Nichole Giles

The other day we rented the movie, “Forever Strong.” I admit, I wasn’t all that interested in watching the show, but had heard good things, and my kids really wanted to see it. So we watched it together—my husband and I, and both our daughters crammed on my bed…but that’s another story—and I think I got more out of that show than my girls did.

In the beginning, the protagonist had some serious life issues that got him into big trouble. Throughout the movie, we watched the main character learn and grow, and change his ways—with real, true motivation, and through the help of a few people who care.

By the end, he’d changed significantly, even to the point where he was able to influence others to be better, stronger people. The story, and the growth of the main character, was profound enough to make me think—and keep thinking—long after the movie was over.

It was a really good show, and a truly heartwarming story.

What makes a good story? In this case, the theme isn’t about the sport the characters play, or the dire consequences of making poor decisions—though those are subplots. The main storyline is about a person who is taught how to make better decisions, and the profound way a few caring people change his life. It’s about learning to be strong.

This is a great example of a character driven story, one crammed full of the emotions human beings experience. For me, that’s the most important thing. Human emotions. Everyone wants to feel—including our characters. In this case, the screenwriter succeeded in achieving the goal.

Another great example is the movie, “Gran Torino.” Character driven, character changes, an unexpected twist at the end that is the only possible right way to end the story. But the viewer never sees it coming. (Warning: This movie is rated “R” for language—which is really bad—and some violence in the end.)

Do you know another great example of a character driven story? Tell me about it. Let’s share.

Until next week, write on.


Davis L. Bigelow said...

I loved this movie. A powerful tale of positive change! Two thumbs up from me!!

Nichole Giles said...

Yep, I agree. I loved it as well, and actually added it to our home movie library.

Thanks for commenting.


L.T. Elliot said...

I haven't seen the movie yet but I did see Gran Torino. My bro-in-law loves it so much, he could watch it over and over. Really.

I think that's the power of charater driven stories. I think that's why Twilight was so popular. They're very character driven, in my opinion.

One book that I thought was both character and emotion driven was The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. I really enjoyed it.

Nichole Giles said...

I'll have to check that one out. Thanks for the suggestion, L.T.

I agree with you that being character driven was the biggest draw for "Twilight" readers. That's why it's so well loved--because emotions like that are something we can all identify with--or at the very least that we want to identify with.

Thanks for sharing!


Molly in the Jello Belt said...

My favorite emotion driven set of characters are from Watership Down. Yes, I know it's a book about talking bunnies. But the characters are so distinctive and finely drawn. Hazel, the leader, really is driven by caring for his brother and ultimately the ones who choose to follow him. Hazel reminds me of a bishop -- "I didn't ask for this job, but I'll throw my whole heart and soul into doing right by the people who trust me." Bigwig's loyalty and courage are consistent and believable. I love Bigwig. And the author did a great job of creating a believable bad guy. The bad guy has a backstory and a compelling choice too; he isn't just someone for the good guys to defeat.

Don't watch the Watership Down movie (corny), but the book is fantastic.

I liked Forever Strong too. I really like your point about how important support from caring friends is in helping people conquer their own problems. Those supporting characters are as important as the main character, and they were well-done in the movie.

Nichole Giles said...

Molly, I haven't read "Watership Down" yet. I'm going to have to add that one to my list. Thanks for the suggestion.

And you're so right. Compelling supporting characters are important to a story--especially an emotionally driven one.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!