I don't know about you, but when I see one little thing a character does that seems unreal, I lose it. It takes me completely out of the story.
Now I know I do a lot of film reviews, and I should be doing book reviews and blah blah blah. But films are writing - they're books in visual form, complete with stories, plot lines, and yes, characters.
And just like in books, if I see a character in a film act in an out-of-left-field kind of way, I get thrown out of the story completely.
But in "The Kids Are All Right", written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, the characters are so real they're almost scary. I mean, apart from the fact that they're lesbians, and they only had two kids instead of three, their trials and challenges with marriage were so close to home it actually hurt to watch.
Now granted, the big difference between film and written stories are the actors that bring them out, but I believe that just reading this script I would've fallen in love with the story. But Annette Bening and Julianne Moore do such a fantastic job bringing their characters to life that I lost myself completely in their story.
So what made their characters so real? The fact that they cried (a lot)? No. Here's what I liked about their characters, and it's something I'd say to keep in mind when you write yours: they're not perfect. Not even slightly perfect. They're not flawed to the point of being idiots, but they are definitely, positively, 100% human. However - and this is important - their RELATIONSHIP is perfect. And I say that because it requires work, but it lasts. It's there, beneath everything they do - even when they argue. You can feel it, because their feelings, positive or negative, or so fierce and strong. It makes their emotions that much more real.
So when writing your characters, give them tears. Let them cuss. Free them from the bonds of your perceived "perfection". Even if you're writing Superman, you have to have the perfect man have a human side. That's why Spock was such a loved character.
While we don't want to see complete reflections of us in the books we read, we do want to see some aspect of us. Because ultimately the hero of the story triumphs. Love conquers, or they conquer their fear, or the recognize their mistakes and move on. And when we can associate ourselves with those characters, when they seem like regular people doing those things, it gives us hope that we can do them as well. We can forgive. We can love. We can move on.
Breathe that into your characters, and I guarantee you'll catch the agent's eye.
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Great time had at the SCBWI conference on Saturday! And a big hello to my friends from that conference who've hopefully joined us here....