Thursday, May 07, 2020

Hi There! We Have a New Podcast on Character Creation

Hi guys! So sorry for being gone so long without an explanation! Things are up in the air and I kept expecting them to settle down so I could start posting again.  They haven’t yet, but they may soon!

In the meantime, here’s a new plague-time podcast episode!  Appropriately enough, James is pitching the value of isolating your characters, as well as five neat tricks all starting with the letter E.  It’s a good one!


Joel W. said...

Another cool episode. At first these a la carte devices seem related to the moment of humanity (side note: the "MoH" is one of my favorite Birdian ideas along with "tricks & traps for dynamic scenes" and "setting the danger/tone/expectations early"). From a quick look at the checklists, it actually seems like the MoH is pretty different. But, on checklists where the MoH is handwaved with stuff like "funny & cracks jokes" or "likeable and we feel pity", perhaps what's really going on is the use of these a la carte devices (tough to say without watching the movie again!).

Around 29 minutes in James mentions watching the hero "enjoy." There's a post somewhere on this blog about how Man of Steel and some new DC movies feel too drab and serious. Did the heroes "enjoy", or "eat", or do something relatable on a *primal* level in those movies? (I never saw them, unfortunately. Actually, fortunately.) They exercise for sure though.

There was a deep idea in this podcast about whether the hero is seen "rising above." Make yourself vulnerable for the greater good. We like that! Don't sell the droid! But don't rise too much or too obviously, because then you're unrelatable, or at worst, pretentious. Come to think of it, the MoH is sometimes a little comically vain moment (falling back down to Earth, not rising).

Also hope you didn't cut out any Rise of Skywalker rants, haha. That movie...well, nevermind.

Anonymous said...

Great show guys.

On Blazing Saddles being the most transgressive film...someone recently commented that they could no longer recommend Young Frankenstein after having seen it again for the first time in decades, due to it having too many 'rapey' jokes that weren't remembered.

Mel Brooks is a genius. And my instinct is to defend his work, but I can't help thinking that if we won't tolerate it today, we shouldn't have tolerated it in 1974 either.

But it's so goddamn funny. Thoughts?

Matt Bird said...

I think of Emma Goldman: "If I can't dance I don't want to be in your revolution"

Harvey Jerkwater said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If we're already being mundane, how about two C's? Cooking and Cleaning.

Cleaning your own (someone else's) property/body and how thorough.

Cooking for yourself/others, and how involved it is. Making a sandwich is different from putting something preheated in the microwave is different from making something from scratch.

And, naturally, cooking could lead to eating could lead to cleaning :)

Matt Bird said...

I'm not sure we would ever identify with a character who is voluntarily cleaning...

McL said...

Great episode!

I remember that Jerry Seinfeld said he couldn't act until he gave himself a bowl of cereal in every scene. You're in good company, Matt.

I think Matt's being factitious, but I second voluntarily cleaning. (obviously involuntarily cleaning is gold too, like scrambling to get the place in order before a person of higher status arrives) But you can relate to cleaning because they are showing devotion to another, whether it's scrubbing the family's dishes, picking up their dog's poop, or a swordmaster wiping their blade before sheathing it. We like to see heroes display their values.

I'm intrigued by the idea of leaving exchanging/capitalism behind in order to move forward and make change in yourself and the world. Is this common in stories from non-capitalist societies? The bookend to this is the return to capitalism at the end I suppose is the important moment too. Like sure the rogue cops risked being fired for following a hunch, but now the baddy is in jail and people can go to the mall again. Or can they not go back, and go off and live on the mountain? How do each the of Es get reflected in the end of the story?

I think about how in video games, it's the opposite with money. You often need to acquire things of value, in order to trade for goods that will help your character save the world (armor, potions, power ups).

Consuming power ups reminds me of a point on eating. Kirk eating an apple is a reference to the first power up, the transgressive fruit of knowledge that breaks us out of our comfortable walls. And eating becomes a relatable trait because breaking bread with people (especially while we're eating popcorn or a snack on the couch) is being invited to their table.

Lots to think about! Makes me glad I put a lot of food in my book but I think I'm going to go change some of the character moments and draw them eating.

Matt Bird said...

Carson over at Scriptshadow has a good post today where he says he bonded with a heroine in a script because she cleaned a coffee spot off her desk: http://scriptshadow.net/how-one-page-in-a-script-let-me-know-it-would-be-great/

Joel W. said...

Hmm, seems like there's shortcut/cynical devices to make us "care" or "invest" (emulation, high 5 a black guy), and then there's shortcut devices to make us "believe" (that cleaning the coffee spot example). Some overlap between these of course. One of the challenges is finding common devices that aren't too specific (aka, cliches). What devices are universal enough to actually be called a la carte shortcuts (emulation, physical activity, and eating seem like the big ones)?

What about the other 4 senses, could it work in the visual medium? Perhaps the hero takes a whiff of the new flowers on the concierge's desk, or they smell last night's dinner trash and repulse. Perhaps the hero listens to music in their bed (careful, what kind of music?), or their alarm goes off. Sight is tough, maybe we get a shot from the hero's POV, like looking at starships through binoculars. Touch...uhhh, getting increasingly specific here, but they could pet a dog ("good with animals" is not really touch though is it), or they slide their fingers across a knife blade, or rub their hands on a wooden table. Seems like a stretch.... After all, eating might not so much have to do with sense of taste itself, but something more empathically primal.

Hey wait a minute, seeing the hero stretch! That might be pretty common. Everyone loves stretching.

Matt Bird said...

Smell is huge in prose (Harry’s babysitter’s house smelling like cabbage, etc.). Nothing makes prose feel more real than using all five senses on the first page. Screenwriters have to rely much more on behavior.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say I'm really enjoying your book. It's much easier to read than others on the topic and the multiple examples really help :)

Anonymous said...

Seeing this made my day. Glad y’all are alive!

Anonymous said...

Great episode! I love your podcast!