Monday, June 29, 2009

Character Development, Part One: Harry Potter and Joss Whedon universes

Saturday, Brother One and I had a really enjoyable conversation about character development.

He's writing a book, a trilogy actually, and asked me who my favorite fictional characters are and why. Immediately I mentioned Hermione, Luna, and Snape from Harry Potter and Wash from Firefly.

For me, the things I like about characters are that they contain shades of grey, are believable multi-dimensional people, and have meaning on their own and not exist just to be a foil or support for other characters.

For example, I really like Snape because he has so many layers. At the beginning of the series, you think he's the bad guy but as the series goes on, he turns out to be a good guy who used to be a bad guy. And even if he is a good guy, it doesn't mean he automatically likes Harry.

Another character I love is Luna. She's in Ravenclaw which values brains, so you'd think Hermione would be in Ravenclaw. But Luna's the kooky one, the one who looks at things from an unconventional perspective and so people harrass her for it. However, it's important to have people who bring a different perspective to help figure things out. She's like River that way from Firefly. They're the characters who most people think are crazy, but they're the wise fool who shouldn't be ignored.

Clearly these are all stock character types: the hero, the anti-hero, the goof, the smart one, the villian, the wise counsel, the wise fool, and so on. As we talked about the characters, we also talked about what type they are.

Speaking of villians, I thought the Malfoys were well developed. You understood where they were coming from, even if you didn't agree. They were the rich, powerful elite, born into those positions, and people don't give up power and position easily. So that makes sense and there were enough details given for them, and Voldemort, to make them multi-diensional, believable characters.

Others, however, like Crabbe and Goyle, existed only to be goons and didn't have any dimension or existance beyond that.

That brings me to Wash from Firefly. I love Wash. He brings the funny. And he brings the piloting skills. So there was a real reason for him to exist, not just to be the funny guy. He doesn't do much fighting and we don't see him working out like Jayne and Book and yet he's so buff underneath the baggy clothes. And the fact that he's married to serious, kick-ass (literally) Zoe who didn't like him when they first met, obviously hints at layers for them both that we never got to find out in the series because the show got cancelled after one season and then Wash got killed in Serenity the movie. Dammit.

The same thing with Book. He's a preacher now, but every episode, he'd say things that showed he had a military or fighting kind of background. The other characters would ask "how does a preacher know about blah, blah, blah weaponry?" But he'd refuse to answer every time. And now we won't know his story either because he got killed off in Serenity too. Dammit.

So back to the stock characters. The man of violence who then becomes a man of peace, like Book, is a stock character. He's like Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who provides the wise counsel to the main character. And Boyd from Dollhouse who is the morally upstanding protective character who works in a morally corrupt place. Are they all variations on the same stock character?

And so on. Brother One and I stayed up until 1:30am talking about characters from the Harry Potter and Joss Whedon universes. I haven't seen Buffy, but Brother One's friend lent me season one. Now that I'm really getting into Whedon's work, I should probably watch Buffy, where it all began.

Actually that's not where it all began since he did write for Roseanne, but that's another reason to like Whedon. Not only are strong female characters one of his hallmarks, as well as the witty dialog, but I used to love Roseanne. Because she's a strong female character! And I love the smart funny. Especially if delivered by the shirtless hunk. I think I covered that in a previous post. Here's another link for pics, The naked picture from Death at a Funeral is the last one.

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