Can Character Development Get in the Way of Good Movies?

Can Character Development Get in the Way of Good Movies?
How do the greatest films stability character improvement and plot stakes?

We have written about methods to write inner and exterior conflict earlier than, and the way the two issues weave collectively, but increasingly more screenwriters are following the similar playbook and it may well simply turn into stale, and worse than that fail to get your script to stand out from the pack. 

What does it imply when individuals speak about “show don’t tell” as one of the most essential story maxims? 

Films are an artwork type, they usually’re continuously evolving, as we speak we will take a look at how the concept of character improvement has started to obscure one thing that can lots effective by itself; stakes. 

In case you fixate on creating characters, and not on how they develop, or why, then you might end up “telling” excess of you present. Your script can be “on the nose” as they say, moderately than having tense scenes that draw the audience forward in the story. 

Keep in mind the greatest character improvement is one we discover as a result of we will not look away from a compelling plot. 

So how do you do this? 

Are Our Characters Over-Developed? 

Typically it looks like screenwriters have been skipping leg day at the fitness center, and simply going massive on their biceps. The results are slightly imbalanced wanting, metaphorically speaking. 

Character improvement is all the time necessary to a very good story, and it’s something of a ‘catch-all’ phrase. It both means how properly a character is fleshed out to start out, in phrases of back-story, but in addition how properly the story illustrates how the character modifications. 

Change is the core value of any story, courting back to our earliest mythology. But not each story wants to point out how a personality grows and modifications in nice element, as a result of typically a narrative is more about how the world modifications, or how events change.

Let’s get out of concept and into follow although. We’ll hop into a number of totally different prime examples of nice films over the years and start talking about what is occurring character improvement sensible, stakes sensible, and why. 

Character Development in Raiders of The Lost Ark and Star Wars

Why not start with some massive, beloved, and blockbusting George Lucas stories? 

Raiders of the Lost Ark is, from a screenplay standpoint, has a reasonably strong foundation. The protagonist of the movie is Indiana Jones, he’s an adventurer/archeology professor. He is recruited to help discover the Ark of the covenant before Hitler and the Nazi’s do. 

This is some real simple excessive stakes stuff. If he fails, evil can win. That core value pushes the story forward greater than anything about Indy personally. 

In phrases of backstory, we do not know a lot about this character. We study a number of issues as we go, for example, that he had an affair together with his mentor’s daughter Marian Ravenwood. We all know that he has some previous buddies around like Salah. We all know that he does not really consider in the “mumbo jumbo” of the Ark legend. We know that Belloq is something of a rival who’s beat him at the treasure hunt recreation earlier than. 

All of these breadcrumbs in all probability amount to less than three minutes of screentime. In case you blink, you may miss them all. 

What about how Indy’s character develops by way of the story? 

A number of things could possibly be pointed two as to how Indy modifications. In a single pivotal moment, he chooses to not blow up the Ark, he later turns into a believer in the magic “mumbo jumbo” of it. He seems to study to recognize the worth of Marian and their relationship as properly. 

These aren’t the reasons the movie is compelling. These aren’t even the causes Indiana Jones is one of the most iconic and beloved cinematic icons of all time. 

What is basically the engine that drives Raiders of the Lost Ark? 


The strain is actually on, and we are on the journey, from the moment the Paramount emblem fades right into a mountain. The movie’s plot regularly raises the stakes. Indy goes from the frying pan into the hearth time and again, until the movie ends. It is a thrill. 

Does Indy change alongside the means? 

Sort of. Nevertheless it does not really matter. 

What issues is that Indy finds a approach, and the Nazi’s don’t take over the world. Phew. 

Mistaking character improvement for why the film works can be like considering that by sporting a fedora you’re as cool as Indiana Jones. Which is to say, individuals appear to do this but boy is it a nasty look. 

Star Wars leans a bit bit extra on character improvement. Luke Skywalker has some critical back story, so does the entire galaxy, and he learns to let go of know-how and trust in the drive to save lots of… every part. 

Han Solo has a character arc of his personal. From non-believing loner to a person who comes back to assist his good friend, and needs him properly with the pressure as well. Hey does Harrison Ford should have the similar arc in every movie? 

As soon as again, writers ought to contemplate the ratio of screentime devoted to this character improvement and backstory. How many minutes of Star Wars is about Luke and Han altering, or wrestling with how they need to change? Not a lot definitely when in comparison with how much screentime is spent displaying them operating from Stormtroopers. 

Most fans will point to Empire Strikes Back as being the ‘higher’ script and story in the Star Wars franchise. Who’s character develops in that one? At the very least on an inner degree the onyl character who undergoes any main change is Leia, who learns to precise her love for Han. 

Think about it. There is not much that occurs in either Luke or Han’s action-packed storylines that’s about character improvement. They’re simply going from one excessive stakes state of affairs to a different greater stakes one. 

It’s a good movie, about good characters. However the youngsters of on the nose character improvement you see increasingly at the moment is not a focus. 

When Characters Are Too Developed 

There may be such a thing as too much of an excellent factor. Character improvement may be over-developed. We would like a bit of bit in the proper places however assume of it like salt. 

With no little salt rather a lot of food can be flavorless, however for those who put in too much then that’s all you’ll be able to style. 

When you noticed LEGO Film 2: The Second Half this weekend, you noticed a film a few LEGO mini-figure with more personal angst and on-screen improvement time than Luke Skywalker. 

That simply appears… off. 

There’s a lot to love about devoting the time to provide Emmet Brickowski of LEGO movie franchise fame this type of character improvement. But in a movie of that nature, aimed principally at youngsters, isn’t raising the stakes sufficient? 

It is good to maintain things simple. Emmet is battling with the approach his LEGO world has changed. He is battling with alien forces who kidnap his buddies. He is preventing visions he’s had of the apocalypse. He’s battling how his greatest good friend needs him to grow up and change. He is additionally dealing with his admiration and jealousy over a brand new character who’s so much like him, only cooler. 

That’s lots to lay at anyone’s ft!

That’s definitely quite a bit for a screenplay to attempt to work out, not to mention one aimed toward youngsters. And that is all to say nothing of the B-Plot about the precise youngsters enjoying with the Lego’s in the first place and their conflict/inside conflict and on it goes.

There’s nothing fallacious with reaching for giant ideas, and it will be great if each film regardless of genre was prepared to go for it.

Character Development versus Plot Stakes Isn’t A Battle Between Artwork and Enterprise

It may be straightforward to disregard some of this as being that blockbusters and high-octane films do not give attention to something arty and psychological like character improvement, however that might be a mistake. 

How a lot screentime does the Godfather dedicate to establishing Michael Corleone’s psychology? We get that he is separating himself from his household.

But from there we witness events that turn Michael into his family. Actually. The most important scene in phrases of Michael’s improvement is this one:

He remains principally silent. The scene is driven by rigidity. What’s at stake here is the homicide Michael should commit. What is going to happen if it goes flawed, or goes proper? How it will affect everybody else in the story. Michael’s character develops in the Godfather nevertheless it does so by way of actions, and through the plot. 

Large emotional shifts for the character happen in singular actions. In the event you arrange one simple motion properly, it may possibly do all the character creating for you.

These moments of external stakes and actions can take on vital which means should you craft them properly. 

As a result of actions not only converse louder than words, however the right metaphorical actions and characters can converse volumes. 

Raising the Stakes and Character Development By means of Metaphor

What if as an alternative of making an attempt to roll massive character improvement concepts into huge external plot stakes, we let the stakes do more of the work on their own… as metaphor. 

Metaphor is usually a difficult system, however do this one out for measurement. 

Die Onerous is probably one of the most celebrated motion(Christmas) films of all time, and screenwriters and improvement executives love how the movie incorporates character improvement snugly into its high stakes terrorist state of affairs plot. 

The story is about up so properly: rough n’ tumble NYC cop John McClane is coming to Los Angeles to attempt to win again his wife, now Holly Genero, from her excessive powered job atop a skyscraper. He’s old skool; she’s a contemporary lady. By the finish, the family unit is restored when he rescues her and the rest of the office after taking over the whole terrorist group barefoot. 

But all that stuff about Holly Genero-McClane isn’t actually why the movie works. It isn’t. The movie works as a result of it’s 85% John McClane being a badass towards all odds. 

What happens once you execute a very good external conflict and hold elevating the plot stakes, is that the viewers starts to see your plot as a metaphor.

The screenwriters did not write each scene about how John McClane is profitable back his wife his method in a fashion that was clumsy and on the nose. As an alternative, they labored in moments and scenes that embody the spirit of this theme, even when they are not addressing it actually. 

Take the character of Harry Ellis, for instance. 

Harry Ellis represents something. How individuals handle issues in Holly’s new world. He represents perhaps a special sort of masculinity than John’s. One which ‘negotiates’ and makes offers fairly than simply swoops in and saves the day with action. 

Nevertheless you need to interpret it, Harry Ellis is in the script, and the plot, for invaluable character improvement causes. He is not there so John can speak to him about the place he came from, or how he needs to deal with this drawback. He’s there, firstly, to boost the stakes. 

He poses a menace to John in the first scene, as the new type of man in Holly’s life. He turns into a bit in the chess recreation between John and Hans later. He becomes one other dying (spoiler alert) later in the story, suggesting that hostages will proceed to die. 

But all the whereas he’s a metaphor for what John is defeating, and what Holly is missing. 

That is character improvement in plot, as metaphor. However it’s surprisingly uncomplicated and stylish.

Up Next: Writing More Plot and Less Character

You’ve got heard it earlier than, “character is plot’ otherwise you’ve heard some version of that cliche. 

What it actually means to each writer is totally different. The reality is the greatest character improvement will all the time be what happens to the characters, which is plot. It isn’t what they consider, or why they do things. It’s what occurs to them, and how they behave. 

If you want to take your plot to the subsequent degree then discover ways to write the greatest plot twists. That is one approach to move the story forward by raising the stakes and avoiding acquainted plot units. 

What do you assume? Do you assume characters are typically over-developed?