Tuesday, November 5, 2013

For The Love Of Characters

I don't usually do posts about writing. Personally, I feel that writing is like parenting...it's an experience and a craft individual to parent and child, or writer and project, as it were. There are some basic rules, but overall it's up to you to figure out how to do it.

However, I'm watching this show right now, Sleepy Hollow, and it's got me thinking quite a bit about storytelling. See, Sleepy Hollow's got quite a few problems. Plot holes you could fly a 747 through, a major arc which has been presented but for the most part ignored...I could go on. Honestly, if it were any other show, I'd have turned it off by now.

But Sleepy Hollow isn't any other show. It's got Lieutenant Abbie Mills, possibly the strongest female lead on TV right now. She's tough, she kicks butt, and yet she's also got past demons and vulnerability which don't compromise any of the former.

Then there's Ichabod Crane, a guy as impossible as his name. Redcoat-turned-revolutionary, Rip-van-Winkled by his witchy wife and resurrected in the 21st century. He's passionate and stubborn and fiercely loyal, and I could probably continue watching Sleepy Hollow if it was a show only about Ichabod investigating the wonders of the modern world.

This is how you get me to pay attention. This is how I can be persuaded to overlook history rewritten and the realm of probability stretched thin enough to see daylight through. (And yes, I'm aware it's a show about a headless horseman of the Apocalypse. I'm not asking that the story be written within this world; I'm asking that the writers make rules for their world and then follow them. A topic for another day, possibly.)

This is how you get me to care what happens next. Create a character I fall in love with. Make them flawed. Give them demons. Have them make crappy decisions. Wound them and leave them dying on the floor. Because every time Abbie's doe eyes fill with tears or Ichabod is once again gasping his last, I want to jump in that story and fix it for them. I've been made to love them. Now it doesn't matter how many other rules the writers break. I'll notice, and I'll roll my eyes, but I won't change the channel. I won't leave them.

That's the crucial difference between a story that's okay or good or a story that OMG I LOVE SO MUCH HAVE YOU READ THIS YOU HAVE TO READ THIS HERE I BOUGHT AN EXTRA COPY READ IT READ IT NOW. Without characters you care about just as much as real people, a story's just...a story. A fable, a parable, a dry paragraph on the page of a history book. It'll pass through you without making an impression. A real story leaves claw marks on your heart.

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