Overcoming the Character Deficit

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Both might lead to some state the character desires, but these desires prove to be mutually exclusive. For the audience, which choice is the right one might be obvious — they will be rooting for the character to go one way. But for the character there may be a strong pull the other way. Usually this mystery is cleared up at some point. The audience tends to expect that. Which implies that even if the want was not made clear to the audience early in the story, it was there in the character nonetheless — and certainly the author was aware of it.

Injecting mystery by keeping character motivations hidden is not in itself a writer trap. But nearly. And those cases can be powerful. Shakespeare — deliberately, one presumes — gives no hint as to what Iago hopes to achieve by ruining Othello. And Iago is one of the most superb villains ever. In such stories, the effect of the narrator telling his or her own story creates a disparity between the time of the story told and the implicit future time of the act of telling. The narrator is relating a past from the perspective of an older self.

This older self has reached a state of being which is different from that of the character being told about — the narrator is wiser than his or her younger self. This creates an effect for the reader: the reader wants to know how the character reach this older, wiser state.

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With this device, it is possible to make character wants less obvious or direct and still maintain an emotional drive to the story. The task is generally the verb to the noun of the goal — rescue the princess, steal the diamond. The action is what, specifically, the character does in order to achieve the goal: rescue the princess, steal the diamond. Central not only in importance, but central in the sense of being in the middle.

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The task is the more or less explicitly defined mission a character sets out on in order to reach the goal and thereby solve the external problem. In a story, more or less everyone has a task. What characters do in a story defines them and determines their roles and narrative functions in the story. It is the action that leads to more…. Now, it may be nit-picking to make the distinction. But then again, it might be quite helpful to see by what line of reasoning a character justifies his or her behaviour.

The effect can be powerful when there is a discrepancy i. When the audience or readers see that the words and thoughts of a character do not match with what that character is actually motivated by, the irony can be a satisfying story experience. The intellectual stance is the effect, the emotional stance the cause.

Actions create more…. By emotional stance we mean belief-system and value-set. An emotional stance does not emerge in a vacuum. That is his emotional stance, and for the purpose of this story also his internal problem. That he is a racist does not surprise the audience at all. It is completely credible given his origins. In many stories, where a character comes from has to be more…. A story, pretty much by definition, describes a change.

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Indeed, every single scene does. The most fundamental change that stories tend to describe is one of recognition of truth. This is obvious in crime stories, but holds true for almost all other stories too.


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The story therefore amounts to an act of learning. But the point is really that the recipient, the reader or viewer, is actually the one doing the learning — through experiencing the story. The real need relates to the internal problem in the same way the perceived need relates to the external problem. To recap: The usual mode in storytelling has a character consciously responding to an external problem with a want , a goal , and a number of perceived needs. So if a character is selfish, the real need is to learn selflessness.

If the character is overly proud, then he or she needs to gain some humility. In the movie Chef, the father neglects his son emotionally — his real need is to learn to involve the child in his own life. The audience sees this way before the Chef does. In storytelling , characters usually know they have a problem and there is usually something they want. They tend to set themselves a goal which they believe will solve their problem and get them what they want. In order to get to the goal, the character will need something.

Some examples: If the goal is a place, a means of transportation is necessary to get there. If the goal is defeating a dragon, then some weapons would be helpful. While the perceived need might be an object or a person, it usually requires an action. If we need help, who do we ask and how do we talk them into joining us?

Developing compelling characters means learning dramaturgical principles

Ask an elf or go to the oracle for advice? At the very least, the first step of the way presents itself. All this is what the character is conscious of. In other words, the character forms a plan. The plan is communicated more or less explicitly to the audience. The anticipation of how things will not go quite according to plan is part of the pleasure. There must always be surprises in store for the characters as well as for the audience. Becoming Aware — the importance of the revelation more…. If you like, it is the expression of a negative character trait. Kids with attention deficit disorder may struggle with controlling their impulses, so they often speak out of turn.

In the classroom or at home, they call out or comment while others are speaking. Their outbursts may come across as aggressive or even rude, creating social problems as well. You can use discreet gestures or words you have previously agreed upon to let the child know they are interrupting.

Praise the child for interruption-free conversations. Children with ADHD may act before thinking, creating difficult social situations in addition to problems in the classroom. Kids who have trouble with impulse control may come off as aggressive or unruly. This is perhaps the most disruptive symptom of ADHD, particularly at school. Methods for managing impulsivity include behavior plans, immediate discipline for infractions, and a plan for giving children with ADHD a sense of control over their day. Make sure a written behavior plan is near the student.

Give consequences immediately following misbehavior. Be specific in your explanation, making sure the child knows how they misbehaved. Recognize good behavior out loud. Be specific in your praise, making sure the child knows what they did right. Write the schedule for the day on the board or on a piece of paper and cross off each item as it is completed. Children with impulse problems may gain a sense of control and feel calmer when they know what to expect. Students with ADHD are often in constant physical motion. It may seem like a struggle for these children to stay in their seats.

Strategies for combating hyperactivity consist of creative ways to allow the child with ADHD to move in appropriate ways at appropriate times. Releasing energy this way may make it easier for the child to keep their body calmer during work time. Ask children with ADHD to run an errand or complete a task for you, even if it just means walking across the room to sharpen pencils or put dishes away. Encourage a child with ADHD to play a sport —or at least run around before and after school—and make sure the child never misses recess or P.

Provide a stress ball , small toy, or another object for the child to squeeze or play with discreetly at their seat. Difficulty following directions is a hallmark problem for many children with ADHD. Sometimes these students miss steps and turn in incomplete work, or misunderstand an assignment altogether and wind up doing something else entirely.

Helping children with ADHD follow directions means taking measures to break down and reinforce the steps involved in your instructions, and redirecting when necessary. Try keeping your instructions extremely brief, allowing the child to complete one step and then come back to find out what they should do next.

If the child gets off track, give a calm reminder, redirecting in a calm but firm voice. Whenever possible, write directions down in a bold marker or in colored chalk on a blackboard. They often like to hold, touch, or take part in an experience to learn something new.

By using games and objects to demonstrate mathematical concepts, you can show your child that math can be meaningful—and fun. Play games. Use memory cards, dice, or dominoes to make numbers fun. Or simply use your fingers and toes, tucking them in or wiggling them when you add or subtract.

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Draw pictures. The internal problem is an emotional immaturity in the character. The real need the internal problem spawns is emotional growth. This growth will turn the character into a person whose actions are no longer detrimental to his or herself, and who acts well towards others, i.

Yes, the audience or reader should become aware of the internal problem of the character. The more obviously anti-social the effects of the internal problem, the more the story turns into a morality piece. The audience is happier feeling it for themselves rather than having it spelled out to them. We all know stories in which characters learn something and become better people by overcoming negative character traits. Very direct examples are the ones where a young protagonist helps a grumpy old person to redeem him or herself, such as True Grit or Scent Of A Woman.

But the idea of a main character having to learn something is so fundamental that its effects are visible in virtually all stories, especially — but not only — in ones from Hollywood. These days, for the last hundred years or so, we have a tendency to look for the origin of negative character traits in our own histories, often in the form of more or less powerful traumas suffered in our childhoods. Sigmund Freud has influenced storytelling here.

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The protagonist was molested as a child; that explains the anti-social behaviour; confronting the trauma leads to its healing. Speaking from a purely dramaturgical perspective, in terms of story structure there are alternatives to trauma. The ancient classics did not use traumatic events to provide an internal problem for a character to solve. About mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone makes bad decisions sometimes. A bad call does not mean there needs to be a trauma. A bad call is usually simply the result of emotional immaturity.

The event could be a simple mistake a character made once upon a time, which comes back much, much later to haunt that character.



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