Character Vs. Story

Hey yo!

Are you a creative person? Of course you are. Everybody is special in their own way. Or so that’s what they told me in kindergarten. Anyway, you creative people you, let me you ask you a question. Have you ever thought to yourself about a great idea for a movie/book/sketch/ballad? Did you ever put that idea into action. If you want to submit your idea to the pantheon of All Things Awesome, you are going to have to write it down. I’m serious here. An idea “in your head” is as good as the paper it’s written on.

Okay, okay. So you have your idea and you are going to write it down. Now what? Presents: Character Vs. Story

During my three year “tour” of film school, the one thing the emphasized the most was story. Without a good story, your film (in this case) would be dead in the water. Romeo and Juliet for example is one of the most adapted stories of all time.

A solid story will take your audience along for the ride with them wanting to see how the story ends. For example, in my second book,“Mass Transit”, the short story of “The Groomsman” was every story driven.

I was at a wedding a couple of years ago where I was a groomsman. While standing around with a wool suit on a very muggy wedding day, I said to myself that I felt like I was some sort of bodyguard, always in the bridegroom’s photos like I was his protection. I wondered about the situations in which a bodyguard would have to protect a groom at a wedding and that evolved into the finished product of “The Groomsman,” a quirky dramedy…

In the finished product, city cab driver and husband-to-be Adam Colby witnesses a murder first hand by an unstable man who promises Adam that if he tells anyone about what he saw, he wasn’t going to make it to his own wedding day. Adam, taking a friend’s advice enlists the help of Drake Howell, a bodyguard with his own quirks.

The summer blockbuster “Inception” seems to be very story driven, because the characters in that piece are just props. That’s right, I said it! Boo me, suckers! Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that if you give your creative idea a solid story foundation, you can go places.

However, the other side of that coin is to start with your character first. Before I explain that, I would like to say that both character and story are not mutually exclusive, you can excel at both.

Character centric stories tend to be more personal, as fully fleshed out characters tend to alienate people who disagree with the character’s principles sometimes. This is totally fine, because frankly people have their own individual tastes. But if your audience roots for your character (as in the protagonist/hero or antagonist/villain) they’ll support the story, even if it is weak at parts.

In my first book, “By The Ounce And Other Tales”, the eponymous story was about an unlucky-at-love guy named Perry who got rejected by the girl of his dreams and…..

Let me just stop right here for a moment. How many of us have been rejected by someone they liked? That alone would have people jumping on your bandwagon. It’s the reason why people like Michael Cera have careers people. Anyway,

…totally giving up on life he meets a traveling salesman named Lou that offers poor Perry an aphrodisiac that is sure to change his fortune. Now, “By The Ounce” was really a character piece about not so much the loser Perry, but the Lou, the traveling salesman. In the story, he claims that human emotions are not “feelings” but chemical reactions and that he sells synthetic replicas of said chemical reactions….wait for it….By The Ounce.

Lou (Named Lou C. Offer in the first couple of drafts) is actually a send up to life coaches and dating doctors that populate the American zeitgeist. You see I, like maybe some of you, have bought self-help books and dating books in order to help me with confidence. Confidence is something you can’t realistically get from a book as it comes from within. These dating gurus are in fact selling something that you already have. Shrewd, no? So using that as a character base, Lou became an experiment about what kind of person would actually sell human emotions (something we’re all born with) back to humans for a profit.

There’s a story there, but the ‘story behind the story’ is learning about Lou and his desires/drives/motives.

Thinking about a situation (story) or person (character) are both strong ways to start your creative endeavor. Don’t think you have to be locked with one or the other either. Mix and match and find the right balance for you.

Oh, and when you write your screenplay/novel/song/web series, I’ll take a finder’s fee.

Just kidding……..Sorta,


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