Wednesday, November 27, 2013

THE KEY TO FICTIONAL CHARACTERS


                                                                   






I've discovered that once I started writing novels I began developing an inner critic as to plot, dialogue and resolutions in other media as well as writing.   That's not entirely true, because as a teacher I seem to have always had an invisible red pencil in my hand.   This dubious talent comes to play even when I'm viewing television shows and I must confess it does impinge slightly on my enjoyment.

I watch the television drama show NCIS quite regularly.   Recently a popular character, Ziva David, recently left the show.   When I heard she was being written out of the program, I found myself thinking this would be a loss and inevitably this led my writer mind to trying to figure out what made this character  unique and intriguing.  What was the key to this character's value?   She was foreign born (Chilean) and played a character from Israel.   She came across as exotic.   She was attractive but didn't seem to care that much about her appearance except that she wanted to stay in good shape physically.   But that was not so that she could be appealing to men, it was so she would be effective in her job and in top form as far as self-defense was concerned.   I have a theory that there is a longing for strong female characters amongst readers and viewers.   She was vulnerable but didn't babble on about her issues.

There was the same under wraps, often hinted but never spoken, love interest with one of the other characters, Tony.   I found this similar to the relationship between Muldar and Scully, the protagonists in the X-files.    Viewers couldn't stop wondering if anything was there or if anything would develop since these two good looking people were in such close, almost intimate, contact in many of the storylines.    In an era where romantic relationships seem to initiate, develop, consummate and conclude in a day, this prolonged semi-courtship but not quite phase seemed at first quaint and ultimately tantalizing.

There's a new female character on NCIS and I found myself considering her with my critical inner eye. My conclusion?   She is too much like the quirky Abby and seems gawky and immature.  But perhaps I'm too harsh.   

I have a theory, though,  that the main  key to NCIS' success is the introduction and development of one-of-a kind characters.   And I'm sticking to it.

2 comments:

  1. I don't watch TV so I can't comment on the NCIS part but I did find it interesting what jumped out at you from the Ziva character: other than where she is from, the first few comments are about her physical appearance.

    It reminded me of this article: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/10/a-first-rate-girl-the-problem-of-female-beauty.html
    bout how so often in books (and film, TV etc) female characters are casually beautiful, it's just another quality that these women possess. The article is really interesting in that it actually looks at the impact and repercussion of this beauty oth on these women and on the men around them.

    And yes I completely agree with you, the success of any TV show, film, and book is always intrinsically linked with how well rounded and developed the characters are, and how three dimensional they are.

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  2. I appreciate your insight. That's one thing that the women's movement didn't cure: the importance of their appearance to many if not most women. When I read the article you referred to on the New York Times I couldn't help but wonder why this man's dates went along with his requirements of beauty before he would associate with them.

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