Eccentric Characters, Growth

Posted: 5th August 2020 by Cheap in Fiction, Film, Filmmaking, Television, Writing

I started watching Top of the Lake, mainly because it’s a British police procedural, and because it has Elisabeth Moss in it. I’m only one episode in, but it’s definitely weird. I hope the dominant, entitled drug lord trope turns out to be less cliché than seems so far.

Anyway, there’s a character, GJ, who stands out, and it got me thinking about character development. She is evidently some kind of low key crazy cult leader. She enables (requires) her to act way outside the norm. She can say things that normal people wouldn’t. She hasn’t said much yet, but so far she has directly restated the core of the story’s drama for anyone in the audience who wasn’t following along. It will be interested to see, as the story progresses, how she will be used as a writing device to cut through the subtleties, and probably to create chaos.

The story has plenty to offer for sources of chaos. I suppose that’s the key to a good British police procedural, and otherwise they’d all be the same.

The local drug lord character is another one who can act outside the norms of human behavior (although somewhat within the pattern of a ruthless crime boss). Perhaps this is a key to making an interesting character: not just unimportant idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, but behaviors or capabilities that actually take the story in some direction. Sure, a character trait like Monk‘s OCD adds flavor, but it doesn’t make the story.

On a mostly unrelated note, I’m writing a screenplay, the working title of which is “The Atlantic Beach Quilting Club”. The surprising thing about this script is that I’m not stuck. Not yet, anyway.

Anyway, when I started, I figured it would be a short, maybe a longish short in the neighborhood of twenty minutes. However, it’s starting to get detailed, out of necessity to move the story. If this amount of detail continues, it may approach feature length.

One thing that hasn’t come yet is any kind of character growth for the protagonist. Only the shortest films can get away without character growth. The longer this one becomes, the more of a lacking this will be. Still, I’m not sweating it yet. The opportunity for growth may appear on its own as the story progresses. If not, I can probably go back and change or add to the story in some minor way to introduce the growth component.

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