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How To Develop A Stronger Character – Alan Watt

How To Develop A Stronger Character – Alan Watt

Film Courage: Can writers hold on to their characters
too tightly? Alan Watt: Yeah for sure. Yeah in fact I’m always saying we got we got
to hold it loosely. If you’re idea of…our character is never the whole
character. In fact it drives me crazy when writers say oh my character would
never do that I think of drama as characters behaving
uncharacteristically okay so a nun robs a bank you know a bank robber saves a
child on the way out of the bank it’s when you’re writing a story or imagining
the world of a story and a character does something that seems out of
character our job is to trust that and be curious about how to support it
rather than going my character would never do that characters can do anything
if you can find a way to support it so when someone says that and you challenge
them do you find that most writers back down or do they become so stubborn in
their ideas of who that character is that they’re they’re not willing to bend
well I don’t cheat I don’t I don’t teach like that so I don’t like I mean if I if
I if I have a care if I have a student who’s challenging me then what what is
there to challenge I’m not I’m just asking questions it’s the way I teach
it’s the Socratic method I’m not I’m not rakonin ever my my yeah so I I would
never have that with with one of my students I would just say you know why
do you make that choice that’s a question I always asked my students why
do you make that choice you know why why does the character do that and and it’s
either in other words you’ve got we’ve got to be willing to explore blind
alleys so if if we just assume that our story’s going in a particular direction
then we might be denying ourselves you know a lot of riches by not exploring
the the opposite way I always say to my writers if you know your characters
gonna go left you have to go right in other words if if in
scene bill is gonna propose to Sally and Sally’s gonna say yes that’s not an
interesting scene Sally will you marry me yes I will bill that’s not a scene
there’s no meaning that gets conveyed convey get the meaning gets conveyed
through conflict or tension and so we want to explore all the reasons why bill
can’t get married and all the reasons why Sally is afraid to say yes then now
now we’re gonna understand what the scenes about because the scene isn’t
about Bill proposing to Sally the scene is about Bill being afraid to work for
Sally’s father you know what I mean will you work what you know Sally will
you work will you marry me and then we can spend our lives and I can write tone
poems and she’s like no I actually if I’m gonna marry you you’re gonna need to
come work for my dad the hit man you know now we’ve got a story okay so we
get you if you know you’re gonna go left go right if you think your characters
gonna do this hold that loosely because you’re going to discover that that that
your idea of your character isn’t though isn’t the whole characters on that it’s
incorrect it’s incomplete and and and the irony is that when you hold it
loosely your character actually becomes the most full version of the character
you imagined it’s not going to do exactly what you wanted it he or she to
do but it’s actually going to become you know the goal of storytelling is for the
whole to be greater than the sum of its parts not to be the sum of its parts you

14 thoughts on “How To Develop A Stronger Character – Alan Watt

  1. Disagree. Character acting out of established character type is bad writing. A great writer knows how to take characters in supriging directions without doing this, and I think what this guy is proposing is a cheap and mindless alternative that would do nothing more than confuse and baffle an audience.

  2. I get what he's saying, but it's strangely conveyed in the way he says it. Basically challenge your assumptions to find the most, meaningful, interesting direction. But it kinda sounds like just changing shit to change shit.

  3. I see some people disagreeing with this guy in the comments, and I have to say, I totally see where you guys are coming from. But I also see where Mr. Watt is coming from. What he's saying is based on fundamental principles of character and dramatic storytelling, but he's simplifying it for us (though you could make the argument that he's oversimplifying).

    Character Dimension is Contradiction. To use the Batman example from elsewhere in the comments, sure, his one rule is he never kills, and to break that rule wouldn't be consistent with the characterization. But he's a vigilante that doesn't kill. That's interesting. He weaponizes fear, but he's a hero. That's interesting. He's extremely wealthy yet has almost nothing. He's very charismatic yet very lonely. These contradictions give him dimension, make him interesting, and help us empathize with him.

    As far as the "go left instead of right" thing or whatever, I think that more applies to the action/reaction beats of a scene. A given reaction doesn't necessarily need to be unexpected to us, but it should be unexpected to the person doing the original action. That's one of the things that separates life from story. Batman searches for a motive for the Joker's killings (action), Alfred tells him that some men just want to watch the world burn (unexpected reaction). A non-protagonist example: Harvey Dent comforts Rachel by reassuring her that Batman will save her instead of him (action), Batman saves Dent and leaves Rachel for dead (unexpected reaction).

  4. I like this fella.

    I went from my protagonist simply just hating her sister to… she wants her dead.

    I certainly didn’t wanna go that route, but it’s what the character wants and the idea won’t leave me be.

  5. I think this guy is a huge fan of GoT season 8. All those characters were acting way out.of character. I disagree with a character having to go left if you know they would go right. Staying in character doesn't automaticly make the story predictable or boring.

  6. This is very enlightening. Thank you to this channel and all the intervewiees. Y'all are a godsent

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