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The Marriage of Plot and Character

[ Edited ]

We will continue exploring how you create characters for movies, this time focusing on how character and plot work together. Make sure you're up to speed on Chapters 2 and 3 of Writing Movies.

The Marriage of Plot and Character

Some movies are plot-driven. That is, the main fun is watching the twists and turns and action of the story. Some movies are more character-driven, meaning the main point of interest is watching how the characters behave and relate to each other. But even plot-driven movies need interesting characters, and even character-driven movies need interesting plots. And, in fact, plot and character are very closely related to each other.

The plot is usually driven by the protagonist pursuing a goal. But there is often an underlying desire beneath that goal, something we call the "deeper desire." In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones's goal is to obtain the Ark of the Covenant. But he doesn't just want it for personal glory. He wants it so he can prevent the Nazis from harnessing its power for the sake of evil. That's a deeper desire.

In some movies, the deeper desire is even more personal and complex. In Thelma & Louise, Thelma and Louse (a team protagonist) share the goal of wanting to stay free of the authorities that are chasing after them, an exciting plot device. But their deeper desire is to set their inner spirits free, for the first time in their lives, something they achieve in stages throughout the movie. It's this deeper desire that gives these characters so much dimension. In this way, Thelma & Louise is a perfect marriage of plot and character. And that's something to shoot for -- a great marriage of character and plot.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark and Thelma & Louise it's fairly easy to spot the goals and deeper desires. In some movies, it's more difficult to pinpoint these things. But even if it's not so easy for the viewer to identify them, the protagonist's goal and deeper desire needs to be known to the writer.

The Viewing Assignment

The Writing Exercise

Create a character inspired by something you read in the news. Feel free to use the same character you created in the "Interesting Characters" topic.

If you were to make this into a story, what might be this character's goal and deeper desire? Also, describe how this character might grow or change during the course of the movie (as best you can, without actually knowing your plot).

To share your passage with the group, create a New Message and use "(Your Book Club User Name), Plot & Character -- Writing Exercise" in the subject line.

Message Edited by Jessica on 05-24-2007 01:33 PM

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