Today I am going to be a femme fatale. A siren that lures men to their demise! No wait, an assassin. I’m going to plot the destruction of people who have wronged me. Then I will cackle loudly in the shadows as I contemplate how I will obtain power and take over the world. This evening I will oil my blade and dip the tip of it in poison, caution to whomever ticks me off today!
Don’t worry, my day is fine. And I might not go that extreme if it wasn’t. But what I do like is the persona that a character, like I described above, brings to the table. Or better yet, the assassin character from the video game Assassin’s Creed. He’s got a lot going for him and is portrayed as a hero who attempts to save humanity. Although he does the saving by apparently killing whole lot of people in different time periods, so I guess that’s fine. But while doing so, he wears lots of neat gear, carries sweet looking weapons, clothing is just spot on in whatever chapter of this game you play, and he’s mysterious. If I could walk around dressed like anyone of his characters from the game (especially from Rogue) I would so do it. But my kids would laugh at me…well maybe not. If my daughter could, she would wear princess dresses all day and my son would ‘Force’-choke people all day pretending he’s Darth Vader. So what does that make me? A large child? Maybe. Or maybe everyone should realize that their day might be filled with much more interesting experiences if we could wear capes, cloaks, walk in slo-mo, and have fog machines. I might set the trend!
Characters, like the assassin and the femme fatale, provide a level of interest for people. It’s someone or something that normal real people just don’t get to do. Whether they are a protagonist or an antagonist, characters create an alternate reality for the viewer or reader. My general favorite are the bad guys though. Villains and anti-heroes amongst other things are depictions of a deeper struggle that individuals may face in life. They generally end up doing bad things, like killing people (which is definitely pretty bad), but you end up forgiving these characters because, well, because they are just SO cool. They do cool things. They have cool gear. They have cool lines to speak. Ignoring the fact that they are bad guys you want to think “Gee, I would really like to be that person”. Come on, I’m not the only one.
Back to Darth Vader, whom my son thinks as being the best villain ever. Vader’s got the cape. He’s got the weapons (the Force and a light saber), his voice is spectacular (James Earl Jones), he has no patience for people who disappoint him, and he gets shit done. Another Star Wars example: The Clone Wars television series. There is a character in the show named Savage Opress (pronounced “Sah-v-ah-ge,” it’s very French) who just happens to be Darth Maul’s long lost brother (who knew!). After a couple of episodes with this Savage character you begin to think that, “This guy is somehow more badass than his brother Darth Maul.” Savage, is hugely strong, his head of horns looks is awesome and his general mean streak is bar none. Savage is compelled to beat people up. He is kind of the ‘cleaner’. All with a double-sided light saber. Perhaps what is bizarre about Savage’s whole character is that he has an enduring quality where he actually cares about his evil brother, Darth Maul. Savage feels like it’s his responsibility to take care of and help his brother, because if you remember Darth Maul has been through some tough times, with getting his legs cut off and all. Touching I know. See even bad guys can have worries and feelings too. I’m not lost yet.
Good writing and development creates worlds for the reader/viewer. And besides the plot and scene, what drives stories is their characters. While it seems easier for a character to be developed for the screen, somewhere, someone once had a concept and WROTE about these characters for a particular show. And great character development is in fact great writing. If done right, good characters are ones that the reader/viewer wants to be or so that the reader feels like they know these characters personally. As though these characters could be invited over for dinner. My son would love to share chicken nuggets with Vader. Great character development enables readers/viewers to become a part of the story too.
Earlier this week I posted a poem I created to help inspire and develop one of my characters in a story I am writing, and he is my antagonist. “E.C.” You can read it here: E.C. poem. I abbreviated his name because in my opinion it’s pretty cool, and since I think I set trends, if I told you his name everyone will be naming their babies after him. From the poem itself, the reader can assume that this character of mine has some issues. He seems angry. Which is true. Yet, the poem alone can be related to anyone or anything really. It doesn’t just have to be read as a piece about MY character in a story. It’s about struggle and redemption. It’s about finding that peace amongst the noise of the things that may make a villain, well, a villain. It’s that something all of us possess and yet, we all try to overcome. Being judgmental, wanting some sort of revenge against someone or something that may have done us wrong etc. It is the finding of where we exist in a life that continues to throw curve balls. Darth Vader, in the end, realized his wrong and that his whole anger issues were stupid. Poor Savage from the Clone Wars just wanted to help his brother be happy and to help him pursue his dreams of total universal dominance (although warped, still a nice gesture). And the assassin in Assassin’s Creed, just wanted to save humanity no matter how large the undertaking. Creating characters to entertain or to help our psyche delve deeper is an art in itself. No good novel, movie, play or poetry would even exist to the magnitude that it can without the fantastic use of character development. As writers, all we want to do is share our experiences with the reader and touch that inner person inside that may or may not be an assassin.
So go forth fellow hero/villains. Struggle! Defy! Win battles! Take no prisoners and ask for help if you have your own personal Savage Opress in your life. Go on, wear that cape. Let’s be inspired together.