Tag Archives: characters

Lessons on writing from Rocky

Before you go and get all “seriously?” on me, I’d like to share a few facts about the film and it’s writer.

Rocky was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning three (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing). Sylvester Stallone was nominated for two of those ten: Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay, making him only the third actor to ever receive those nominations for the same film (the first two being Orson Wells and Charlie Chaplin). Rocky has been recognised by the Writers Guild of America as one of their top 100 movies ever, and has featured in several of the AFI’s top 100 lists.

As for Sly himself, the press in 1976 compared Stallone to the likes of Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. In Rocky and Rambo, Sly helped create and develop(1) two of the very first modern movie franchises. Rocky itself spawned 5 sequels (6 if you count the spin-off “Creed” currently in pre-production) at a time when franchises were often built around bad guys instead of heroes(2).

The movie remains one of the most quotable and best loved films ever made. A key reason for this success is Sylvester Stallone’s deep understanding of characterisation.  Continue reading

Disney’s strong females

I recently read a twitter post in which the author moaned about Disney. Now, I’m actually a pretty big fan of Disney and have a pretty low threshold for complaints about them, so I wouldn’t normally have even bothered to read the post… except the author said something that jarred so much with my own perception of the company that I had to (a) read the linked blog to make sure I wasn’t missing something vital and (b) write this to right some wrongs out there.

The author had gone off on some feminist rant about Disney using only weak “Save me! Save me!” type female characters.

Okay, let’s clear this up right now: Disney has some of the strongest, most capable, and the most modern women characters out of ANY studio. Not only that, they have been in this position for arguably well over half a century. Continue reading

Every choice reflects on your characters

Each choice in a story is an opportunity to tell us something about the characters, whether it’s introducing something new, reinforcing an established position, or highlighting some deviation from the norm. Chapter 10 of the Work In Progress contains a seemingly innocuous exchange between two characters:

‘Do you want the good news or the bad news?’ asks Dudley when he sees me approaching. He kicks himself back away from the computer terminal so that he can face me directly as I take the seat next to him.

Continue reading

Can deliberately pigeonholing a character make them less two dimensional?

Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to attend quite a few different training courses designed to develop softer skills. From a writer’s perspective, some of the most interesting and useful ones have been the sales training courses designed classify individuals into different personality types to better predict what influences them and makes them buy things.

Of course, in the real world, every person is unique. Their reactions to any event will be dictated by the random and often unknown mix of nature and nurture. An excellent line of argument can be completely derailed by using a phrase that just happens to be one that reminds the listener of a lazy ex-boyfriend. A smell can change someone’s mood. But that doesn’t devlaue the work undertaken by these sales trainers. From a writer’s perspective, these methods can be really useful in either helping you come up with a new character, or to better understand their character to make them more consistent with themselves. Continue reading

Choosing names for characters

I have a theory that certain rhythms and syllable combinations work better for different character types in a novel. This theory is not based on any in depth psychological studies, nor is it drawn from an understanding of cognitive behaviour. It’s just a hunch (albeit a hunch that I follow for all my lead characters). It’s an extension of the idea that people are disproportionately convinced of arguments that come in threes. Continue reading