Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Podcast Episode 17: Two More Character Tricks

Hi everybody! So this is all very confusing, but one month ago, James and I had a marathon night where we recorded enough material for two podcasts, then George Floyd was murdered, and we decided to sit on them so as not to distract from the painful and long overdue reckoning that followed. Now we’ve finally gone back and recorded a bit more material for both, and I’ve finished cutting them. I’ve posted one and now and I’ll post the next in a week or two. Hope you like it.


Friday said...

Holy excessive Es, Batman! That episode had me rolling. I am not sure at this point whether I am here for education or entertainment. LOL.

Joel W. said...

Wow, really surprised emulation isn't more widespread. Conspicuous, pronounced emulation can instantly reflect the hero's current mindset or what the hero wants to be or achieve, often in a funny or dorky (empathetic) way. Guess the evidence for it in movies just isn't there though.

The way a hero chooses to emulate a subject (mockingly, honestly/respectfully, naively, etc.) can draw a direct comparison between the hero's values to the values of the subject being emulated. e.g., An employee mocking their bossy boss. A kid in a car playing with a dinosaur figurine toy and making dinosaur sounds, while being in a Jurassic Park style movie (or, replace "dinosaur figurine" with anything corresponding to the specific thrill/horror of the movie). Rey goofily wearing that oversized helmet while eating, where the helmet, an object, is removing the need for spoken dialogue characterization.

Also, in that Donnie Brasco clip, those 2 goofs were emulating mobsters(!)

Joel W. said...

Out of curiosity, here's some ways each E lines up with the checklist...

Eat: ...it doesn't.

Exercise: ties in with doing something active at beginning. Could tie in with physical vulnerability (perhaps).

Economic activity: Could tie in with emotional vulnerability (perhaps). As well with decision making authority. And if the hero is working at a job, this might set the setting & stakes for the social humiliation and loss of sage space. This is all auxiliary to the actual action of being economically active though.

Enjoy: in 2nd quarter, when the hero "has a little fun" and is hopeful about possible success. That concerns the general mood of a few scenes though, rather than specific "enjoy" moments in the 1st quarter. There's also a comments discussion somewhere on this blog about whether the movie in question adequately shows the range of relevant human emotions. I believe that discussion arose out of a desire to soften the dourness of some movies.

Emulate: ...it doesn't. Although it can instantly reveal character through attitude or emotional reactions, as recommended by the checklist.

Explain: Exposition might be withheld until we the audience are demanding to know it. Very interesting idea in the podcast about expositional jiu-jitsu: getting hero to be the one to deliver information. I wonder how common that is. Do heroes often explain their presumptions about the situation in front of them, or is this only really for heroes who are experts in their field, like Indiana Jones? Some of both, probably.

Evaluate: Regarding the many people who lack the hero's most valuable quality, the checklist asks "is the hero willing to let them know that, subtly or directly?" The dialogue checklist item "Are the characters resistant to openly admitting their feelings (to others and even to themselves)?" might be the *opposite* of this E, in a way. Although, that checklist item might apply more to achieving goals, agendas, and creating drama. Fourth-wall breaking heroes certainly aren't resistant to expressing their evaluations to the audience.

This is a comparison of two contrived story-telling advice systems, rather than the more useful process of directly observing stories themselves to contrive the systems in the first place (as you two do), but the fact that there is a faint duality at all between the checklist and the Es is, uh, pretty cool! There are likely an inordinate number of strategems a writer can deploy to make a hero worthy of believing, caring, and investing, but these 7 are simple, describable things, and are thus more universal.

Matt Bird said...

Well, we recorded this podcast before I'd done many of these pieces, and before James pointing out to me that I had too narrow of a definition of emulate, so now I've found it's not as uncommon as I thought.

Thanks for all the work lining those up!

I believe James is on vacation away from the internet this week, but maybe he'll put is two cents in when he come home.