Hump-Day Help: Character Core

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I got into a debate with a few people about 2 weeks ago on character. This was brought about by a well known character from a 70’s TV show being altered in a 2016 movie reboot. Y’all likely know who I mean but I’d rather we not state it so we don’t attract trolls or fan fanatics/purists to come yell at me.

After I had this discussion, where I kept using the words “character core,” I thought about what that means. I specifically pondered on how it relates to things like, changes that occur when stories go from books to screen,  about Fan Fiction, and about editing. For example, if someone changes things about your character, is it still your character? I think it is, IF they leave their core the same.

But what is that? What do I mean when I say a character’s “core”? I am talking about the moral ground upon which they stand, their purpose, and what drives them to fulfill it. In oversimplified terms, I would point toward the Alignment of a character in D&D. I’ve mentioned these before…even put up different pictures of examples. Go HERE to see that post (titled, Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn). But I wanted more, so I Googled, like we all do, and here are a few other sites I found for character sheets:

You may be saying, “This is great, but what is your point?” I’m getting there, have faith.

Here are a few examples of character changes:

TV Show: Elementary – This show has Watson played by a woman and the show set in NYC.

Movie: Interview with a Vampire –  This has the role of Armand played by Antonio Banderas (the character in the book is very much a red-headed man with pale skin…HERE is fan art of the character)

Theatre: Hamilton – This has Angelica Schuyler played by an African-American woman (when THIS is Angelica from history).

I won’t even name the amount of Shakespeare that’s been rebooted, so to speak, with changes…we’d be here all day. LOL!

Anyway, my point is that none of these changes alter the core of the character being portrayed.

I think that sometimes we get too protective of our characters (whether we write them or portray them on stage/film). For writers this will get in the way of you doing a quality edit. If you are not willing to adjust things here and there that the editor is asking for to make your story make more sense OR to cause it to flow better, you’re only hurting yourself. Unless the change goes fully against their core (their purpose, what drives it, and their moral standing) or goes removes something that needs to happen because it is a stepping stone for something we see later on (and the editor may know a better spot it can go, so explain and ask), take your wall down.

Stop resisting change. Nothing grows without it. So the next time you see something get altered and your Purist attitude rears it’s head, slap some gaff tape on it’s mouth and think about if that change hurts the core of the character. Does it go against the grain of who they are. If so, then explain why and see what the editor has to say. If it does not, play with fixing it up and seeing what happens.

Examples posed to me during my discussion were if James Bond or Austin Powers was set in America. The person chatting with me used them as examples of changes that would ruin a character that aren’t core. However, I disagree. Here’s why: With Bond and Powers, being British and dealing with British issues, are part of their core. For with characters such as these, their location is part of what makes them who they are. Could you do Bond or Powers as Americans? Sure, and it would be an interesting swap over to see. Hell, maybe even if done right it would work…but it wouldn’t be the same at all. So setting, if it impacts the actions and morals/purpose/drive of your character, then it may land under their core as well.

Obviously the aforementioned discussion revolved around the fact that the character used to be a straight male on the TV show and is now being portrayed as gay (not in dialogue, but we see he has a husband vs. a wife) man. I see no reason for this to be an issue as it does not alter the character’s core. Some may disagree (mostly men, I noticed when this discussion was going on) because they feel that their sexuality is the center of who they are. I get that. I don’t think being a heterosexual defines my goals in life, but that’s me. If your sexuality does, that’s okay. 🙂

However, when it comes to fictional characters and the portrayal of them, unless you’re talking about a role like Robin Williams played in the movie, The Birdcage, where the sexuality was the central theme and core of driving purpose, I don’t see swapping out a wife for a husband (or vice versa) as a situation to get bent out of shape about. Pick your battles, folks. But for me, just like it doesn’t change how I see a person depending on their sexual orientation, it doesn’t change how I see a character in a book/movie/TV show.

And yes, the actor of said role wasn’t pleased (though gay in real life), but I he took the producer’s choice personally (in a negative way) and I don’t believe it was meant to be. I think it was in honor of who he is in real life and I think it was in staying true to the show pushing boundaries and the alternate timeline concept.

In short…loosen your grip on some things concerning your work when editing. Sure, it’s your baby, but just like with real babies, they grow up and walk without you…make it so your baby can do just that or it will sit on your lap (in a drawer) for the rest of your life and that’s not where it was meant to stay.

OBVIOUSLY there are a lot more things that go into a character and what makes them who they are…but I’m already over 1200 words on this post and we can chat about the other stuff in the comments section. So…that’s it for me this time around…until next time, write hard, bathe in imagination, and don’t close your mind to options when editing your characters!

Tamsin 🙂Windfire Cover

OH…and if you’ve never read my Windfire series, head on over to Amazon…for a LIMITED time the first book in the series is on SALE for only 99 cents! Find it HERE!

DSC_2927 EditBIO:

Originally from Michigan, Tamsin L. Silver is the creator/writer of two YA Urban Fantasy Series, Windfire and The Sabrina Grayson Novels, as well as the Web Series, Skye of the Damned. She graduated from Winthrop University with a BA in Theatre/Secondary Education and a minor in Creative Writing/Shakespeare. She has taught both middle school and high school theatre and run two successful theater companies, one of which in the place she currently lives: New York City. You can learn more about her and find links to all her things at www.tamsinsilver.com

 

 

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