APRIL 2021 Writing Feature Focus: A CHARACTER In Search Of…

Each month The Monarch Writers, here on our .com and also on our Discord, will focus on a specific theme. This month it is CHARACTER. And specifically how to make strong characters.

First, to sum up the issue:

So what is the issue of character?

A character must have DESIRE. And a character, in the course of a story, must CHANGE.

That clip is from the incredible film ‘Adaptation’ (2002) of course, written by Charlie Kaufman. He specializes in kind of meta- self-dissecting arthouse turmoil, rainbeaten soil of the frustrated honest soul, everyday absurdity, the transcendent beauty of… mundane revelation-avenging angel of humanity kind of thing. Not your typical writer, perhaps, but he goes to a screenwriting workshop in his own film, as himself, and listens to one of the master teachers, Robert McKee, played by Brian Cox.

Here’s the real Robert McKee’s thoughts on signing on for a script that was written quoting him, using his name, which he had his own conflicts with the screenwriter about before their individual characters came to terms on a workable resolution that became the film, incidentally changing the ending to the script of said film!

This month I plan to look into and discuss a few pieces of art related in an interesting way to character and its specific relationship to the author, to tease out some interesting themes that might spark something in your process as you build up your own characters.

I’ll look at Six Characters in Search of an Author, an Italian play by Luigi Pirandello.

And would like to start the discussion of finding that strange-attractor relationship to your characters, by getting soon to a discussion of the far-out twilight zone episode, Five Characters in Search of an Exit

What does your character want?

Well, as McKee said, he doesn’t want to be loved, on principle. He wants a redemption scene. Perhaps as writers we have to go from wanting to be loved by the reader to wanting something similar… To find that redemption through the connection.

After McKee yells at Charlie in the seminar scene, Charlie, wanting redemption and daring to change, sticks around after the show and hassles McKee, says ‘remember me, I’m the guy you yelled at’ and asks him to get a drink with him in the bar. This is the ensuing scene.

So, I’ll leave you with the advice of Robert McKee, a writer, about adapting a book about flowers ‘The Orchid Thief‘ by Susan Orlean (“that sprawling New Yorker shit”) into the enigmatic and blissful film ‘Adaptation’. Robert McKee telling it like it.. when life hands you orchids… or, doesn’t. Again, McKee being played by an actor, as a character in a movie about a writer playing the writer who wrote the film about adapting a book that he has trouble writing into the movie script he needs help making into the movie he’s in…

And it’s really just as simple as that.

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