Commercial Can Be Important

It is something that a lot of artists say, myself included. They don’t want to do shallow art just for the sake of selling it. There is no real interest in creating the next big franchise or money maker. That art is shallow. In fact, it may not even be art, and just a product people create to sell and line their pockets. There’s also a certain bitterness that more ‘important’ and ‘thoughtful’ fiction is not as widely seen as the latest big action film. People have a hard time quoting a French film about the Holocaust, but most people can drop lines from any Schwarzenegger action epic.

But commercial art can have messages that are important, and packaging it right can help that message reach more people.

Take for example the Disney film Zootopia. This recent smash has been making waves and gaining praise for much more than just its animation. While on it’s surface it looks like a mere cartoon about cute anthropomorphic animals, it discusses a much more important and relevant topic.

In Zootopia, the populace is divided into predators and prey, though the two no longer eat each other. A series of strange incidents start occurring where predators go insane and revert back to their predatory instincts. The two main characters are a cop bunny named Judy Hopps and a con artist fox named Nick Wilde, prey and predator respectively.

After uncovering that predators are reverting to their natural instincts seemingly without cause, Hopps holds a press conference, speculating that these attacks are due to natural instincts. The exchange between her and Nick after the conference sounds a lot like something out of a different kind of film.

Nick

Clearly there’s a biological component? That these predators may be reverting back to their primitive savage ways? Are you serious?

Judy

I just stated the facts of the case! I mean, its not like a bunny can go savage.

Nick

Right. But a fox could, huh?

Judy

Nick stop it! You’re not like them.

Nick

Oh, so there’s a them now?

Judy

You know what I mean! You’re not that kind of predator.

Nick

The kind that needs to be muzzled? The kind that makes you believe that you need to carry around fox repellent? Yeah the only thing I did notice that little thing on the first time we met. So l-let me ask you a question; Are you afraid of me? You think I might go nuts? That I’ll go savage? You think that I might try to eat you!?

Judy reaches for her fox spray. Nick’s face drops.

Nick

I knew it. Just when I thought someone actually believed in me.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know what this movie is about. One reviewer said it best when they said  Zootopia was Disney’s answer to Crash.

Some will say it’s a cheap bait and switch, advertising something as a children’s film only for it to be a ‘message movie.’ Here’s the thing though. Shouldn’t that be what mainstream movies try to do?

You see this in a lot of different eras and a lot of different genres. The 1980s saw a slew of highly commercial and highly profitable movies dealing with the Cold War and the dangers of nuclear proliferation. One of the most famous of which, War Games, had a computer attempting to start World War III, unable to tell the difference between the projections in its program and the real people it was going to kill. When the young hero, played by Matthew Broderick, uses a game of tick tack toe to teach the computer that nuclear war is a no win scenario, the computer laments the following.

“Strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

The preview audience cheered at the line.

Two of my favorite science fiction/horror films of all time, Alien and Aliens, feature strong anti-corporate messages. The best example is in Aliens where a corporate CEO, played by Paul Reiser, attempting to smuggle one of the deadly creatures back to Earth for use in their bioweapons division. When his plan is revealed, the heroic Ellen Ripley calls him to the carpet for his greed, saying he is lower than the monsters she and the marines are fighting.

“You know Burke, I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.”

While it’s sometimes popular to disregard commercial film and literature as being just that, the fact remains that this work is the most widely seen. Experimental art films are wonderful, visually stunning, and psychologically unsettling pieces, but they don’t appeal to the masses. A story about a young boy going to a school for wizards does. People may not be too interested in seeing another documentary warning about the dangers of climate change, but an adventure to preserve the beauty of the far away Pandora is something people will flock to. An anti-corporate message will bore most people, but throw in acid bleeding aliens and you will draw a crowd.

Important and relevant messages can reach a wide audience if they’re packaged right. This isn’t a cop out and it doesn’t diminish the purpose os your art. Doing this only increases its chances of reaching more people, ensuring your message is heard by a wider audience, and allows the to have fun while you’re discussing potentially hot button topics.

Balancing both commercial and topical art can be difficult, but if you go too far in either direction, you have failures. The Transformers movies may earn a lot of bank, but they’re pretty shallow and exploitive action films. A French art film about genocide may be well made and heartfelt, but people need to see it for the message to be heard. If you find the healthy middle ground, you can make something people love, something that lasts, and something that gives an audience food for thought.

Zootopia has a cast of cute animals, but it’s still about the problems our society continues to face with ethnic and racial groups continuing to mistrust and categorize each other. If that message is still there, who cares if it’s told with a fox and a bunny?

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More Never Heroes News

Never Heroes, my fantasy novel continues to near completion as the days go on, and as the days go on my excitement for this book grows more and more.

Yesterday I completed a tedious pre-final edit to send to my partner in crime, my book editor. I was concerned about chapters 18 and 19 since they amount to one giant fight scene between my hero and the main villain. My new edits were aimed at keeping the action fresh and filled with variety so it doesn’t get repetitive. I’m pretty happy with it so far, and my editor will only help it improve more.

Just as exciting is the progress made on our cover. Our talented illustrator, Joseph Buehrer, completed one of our prominent supporting characters, the elven wizard Hunter ‘Sparks’ Nightshadow. Though this character was of some concern to us when he first started the illustration, we’re both pretty well pleased with the result.

Cover_Hunter_03

The background on which the characters will be composited together was started today, a mountain range on sunset with our city of Ganbury and the five moons, visible in the upper left hand corner of the picture. Though the necessary details have not been added just yet, this does capture the general feel the final picture will have, from its rich colors to the spectacular landscape.

Cover_Background_01

This picture will not only take up the front cover, but also the back cover. The left side will remain untouched, while the right side will have the individual images of the characters added in for the final Drew Struzan style collage. In its own, it already promises to be spectacular enough. It will be a shame to cover up this image. We’ll try to keep plenty of it visible.

Now all we need is the image of our leading man, or rather our leading dragon. Creature creator David Spada sent in these sample doodles on which our hero could be modeled after. We decided to go with the highlighted one. He’s already looking pretty hansom in these early stages.

Zhyx Cover Tests

I have no doubt in my mind that this cover will be glorious when it’s finished. I’ll keep you posted as more work comes in.

Thanks for reading.

Working with Writing Editors: Why and How

Getting an editor for your writing can seem like a waste of money. Such editors often go for around two to four thousand dollars if they have been working in the field for a number of years. Also, why should someone need an editor? What do you need to worry about other than typos?

The answer is a lot. A lot can go wrong when writing a book or a script, and if you find the right editor, you have an opportunity to fix those mistakes. I have been working with my editor for roughly a month now and can say that her input in my project has been most insightful. Working with an editor can help expose your shortcomings as an artist, and this can be a gut punch. But instead of taking it that way, you can accept those weaknesses and take it as a challenge to make your writing better.

First things first, don’t have someone you know be the editor unless you’re sure they can view it objectively. You can have such a person sweep for typos, but if they know you will it is hard for them to take a step back and provide an honest opinion. They know who you are, can pick up on little in jokes that a general audience probably won’t, and will often do their best to be encouraging. You won’t get an honest critical evaluation from your own mother. Think of your writing like a pool. Those you know have already waded in and are comfortable with it, but most people are going to be jumping in cold. If it’s uncomfortable, they’ll just leave and move on to warmer waters.

The best editors are ones you don’t have extensive connections to, because they can come into the story cold from the point of view of your audience, as someone who doesn’t know you, is meeting your characters for the first time, and just getting ready to explore the world you have made. This brings us to the problem of objectivity, not just for them, but for the writer.

Objectivity is a big one for writers, myself included. When delving into your story, you often feel a flood of emotions and are aware at any given moment what your characters’ innermost thoughts and secrets are. Nobody knows the story better than you. That is a big risk since you know the story so well, you may not communicate what you feel because you already know it.

Unless your audience is also aware of those things, a character’s actions will probably not have the same impact for them. Editors, like your audience, offer an objective point of view. If they are unable to get the ideas you are trying to put across, chances are your audience will be the same way.

Take me for example. I’m not terribly fond of depressed or angsty characters. I just have a difficult time connecting with someone who complains about the meaningless of life on a regular basis. While editing my book, my editor made the comment that my protagonist seemed angsty at times. When she revealed this to me, I was somewhat distressed. I was going for more a gruff and angry kind of character who complained, but did it in an intimidating or even funny fashion. Since my editor didn’t quite get that, it doesn’t mean she didn’t ‘get’ the story. It just means I didn’t communicate my character properly.

So my editor and I arranged a meeting where she addressed her feelings, and I told her what I was going for.

Her response was something to the effect of “Ah, yes. I can see that now.”

Then I said “Okay. So how can I communicate that better?”

The tips and examples she offered me after that meeting were most helpful, and helped me improve my manuscript greatly. Lines of dialogue and certain actions now stuck out as being against everything I wanted my character to be, so a few strokes of the keys and they were fixed. That’s what you should do. If something doesn’t work for your editor, talk to them, tell them what your goal is, and ask for tips on how to help that come across.

This brings us to another advantage of having an editor. They can be a good partner to work with, and even make the editing process very fun. A good editor will talk to you, try to understand who your characters are and ask you what you want your story to be. Once they know that, an editor can be a lot like a coach or personal trainer. They’ll be over your shoulder and offering input and criticism, but it’s all to help you build those writing muscles. Eventually, you will work those common mistakes out of your system, and you’ll be a better artist for it.

This doesn’t mean you should listen to everything an editor says. Sometimes you’ll have a strong idea in a story that means a lot to you and you want to keep. My editor has suggested the deletion of passages or lines that I find it difficult to part with. Sometimes they’ll suggest deleting something, only to go through the manuscript and see you were trying to set something up before, then tell you to go ahead and leave it in.

If something means a lot to you and not to the editor though, you can take that as another sign that it doesn’t quite work. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it. It just means that element needs some fixing.

Now, not every writer needs to work with an editor. Sometimes it is a more comfortably process to work on something alone to keep any distractions from clouding your thinking. Sometimes every word just means so much to you, it is impossible to part with any of them. If however you are insecure with your work or want to go through a test run with it, I would suggest seeking an editor out. I can say for my first time working with an editor, this has been an enjoyable experience that has helped my manuscript get re-energized. There are not many joys greater than seeing a manuscript you already love come to life as your ideas leave your head and become words on the page. You work with a good editor, that joy can be yours as well.

Meet and Greet Weekend @ Dream Big: 3/25/16

Dream Big, Dream Often

Make Your Dreams Come True ad MY FIRST BOOK WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR SALE SOON!!!

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend at Dream Big!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!  So hit the reblog button.
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet n Greet your butts off!

See ya on Monday!!

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When Do You Kill The Kid In Your Story

You have to look a good long while to find a work of fiction where someone doesn’t die. It happens all the time, from the most blood soaked of Goodfellas style movies to the most seemingly innocent of Bambi like stories of fluffy animals frolicking through the forest. Inevitably, someone is going to take anything from a tumble to a bullet. But there are a few no-nos in such stories, namely that killing a child is generally frowned upon.

It’s one of the things that most fiction writers try to steer clear of, be they screenwriters or novelists or anything in between. Generally there’s a fear that doing something like this will turn off one’s audience, and often this type of thing is used for no other purpose then to stir controversy. Sometimes though, taking that extra step can help a story, and be used as a great dramatic device. Let’s start with the death of a child in something relatively well known, like Jaws.

Jaws, both the book and film, has a child getting horribly killed before the closing of the first act. The film is especially graphic in its depiction, a fountain of blood surging out of the water as the child is torn to pieces by the shark. I’m honestly surprised it didn’t get an R from this scene alone.

The scene does help the film though. The unexpected violence of the scene puts the audience on edge, and the stakes are raised immediately. The film’s hero, Chief Brody, has several children, and now their safety is not guaranteed to him or us. More interestingly, the aftereffects on Brody become an important part of the plot, him getting angrily confronted by the dead child’s mother, and sinking into an alcoholic stupor afterwards. The death of the young boy does serve the story well. Alligator is not nearly as good an example.

Alligator is nothing special, a Jaws knock off from the 80s. There’s a scene where the monster is hiding in a backyard swimming pool during a child’s birthday party. Seeking to bully the the toddler, his older brother pushes him into the pool, where he is killed in a geyser of gore in front of horrified onlookers.

This scene fails for a number of reasons. One, it should be horrific, but unlike Jaws, it comes across as laughable. Worse yet, it in no way effects the plot. The leading characters are never aware of this attack. It doesn’t clue them in to the monster’s location, and afterwards it’s never mentioned again. What could have been a terrifying and even poignant scene is but a brief aside in the story. Cutting this element out of the film, it moves just as smoothly with no sense of anything being lost. It has no effect on the plot, so it has no place in the narrative. While the scene in this film is useless, it doesn’t come across as insulting and is actually good for a laugh. That isn’t the case for Aliens. vs. Predator Requiem.

Words cannot express how much I despise this picture. Not only does it ruin my two favorite science fiction icons of all time, but it contains some of the most shameless and exploitive violence ever put on film, and all for the purpose of garnering controversy. The film gets off to a poor start when a child is attacked by a facehugger and gives birth to the chestburster inside of him on camera. It is well known to fans of the series that the facehugger is a rape allegory, so using it on a child, and onscreen, was incredibly ill advised. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the film sinks to new lows when we witness one of the leading monsters massacre a nursery and a ward filled with pregnant women.

Now, the previous films in both the Alien and Predator series are not family material by any stretch. Aliens for example does kill many children, but it’s off screen. When either series was at its best, they were tense, suspenseful and well made films with well rounded characters that didn’t need gore or violence to sell themselves. There is no such tact or skill to be found in Aliens. vs. Predator Requiem. The above mentioned scenes are not well made in any sense of the word, and are blatant attempts to sell the film by stirring the pot. It’s only appropriate that the film failed. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t have something in bad taste and still have it serve a story. Arguably the best example on this list is one of the most disgusting sequences ever put to film.

John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 is an underrated gem that serves as the first in a series of incredible films from the talented director, and is easily one of the best action films of the 1970s. The plot concerns a team of police officers and convicts who try to fend off an attack on their precinct by a violent street gang.

In the film’s most famous sequence, a child is shot with a silencer by the head of the gang. It is sickening, in bad taste, and absolutely brilliant in how it’s executed. You could teach an entire class on editing from this scene alone, but lets take a look at how it effects the plot. After the little girl is killed, her father takes revenge on her killer, retreats inside the titular precinct for safety, and is followed by the gang bent on revenge. In one fell swoop, Carpenter both gets the plot of his siege thriller started, and removes any sympathy the audience might otherwise have for the gang. The entire story hinges on this horrific scene, for it creates the conflict that the characters must resolve.

In closing, killing a child in your story doesn’t have to be purely exploitive. It can be a very potent, dramatic, even tragic device. It can get your plot rolling, let your characters know how serious a situation is, or just put your audience on edge for the rest of the ride. There are however many other ways to do this. Use this dramatic device as you would any other that could be controversial, and use it responsibly.

Books or Movies? Evaluating My Career Path

In these two years since I got out of college, a lot has happened in my professional life to give me pause over which career would be best for me, film or books.

When I was a young boy of around six years old, I saw Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom. The movie was so rich with imagination, action and creative imagery, I fell in love with it right away. Looking at what was playing out on the screen, I asked a question that changed my life forever.

“How did they do that?”

I had never considered the question before when watching a movie. I had always assumed these wonderful things just winked themselves into existence. After that question, I watched documentary after documentary on how these works of art were created, and made the declaration when I was 10 years old.

“That’s what I want to do.” So I went to college for it, aced my grades, and learned everything I could about the elaborate and complex craft of filmmaking, from conception to the screen. I was going to be the greatest director ever. Now 27, I have only made a few short films, no features, and have a small job in a film company. They are good achievements to be sure, but not my greatest. My greatest was that I wrote a book.

Over one hundred thousand words, over three hundred pages. I sooner saw myself directing a massive budget epic then I did writing so much as a short story, but here it is. Locked away in my external hard drive is a book, and I had the time of my life doing it. It has made me wonder which art form is more right for me as a career path.

Two questions go into choosing books or film, how each works as an art form, and what goes into making either one.

Movies are an art for that interest me a lot more than books, because they are every art form rolled into one. They have writing, acting, music, digital and painted art, architecture, everything. Whenever a new art or technology comes along, movies absorb it, growing as humanity grows. They are in many ways the universal art form. Not everyone has the time or the patience to read a book or play a video game, but with a movie all you need to do is sit back and take it all in.

Books by contrast only deal in writing. There is no music, no acting, no effects work of any kind. They are just words on a page. Unlike movies, books ask a lot of their readers. They ask for time, concentration, but greatest of all, they ask for imagination. That is the one thing books will always win at. A book is different for each person, and on each reading. The words change and grow with you, and you are in control of it all. How the sunset looks, how the birds sing, how the couple kiss under the moonlight. Movies have the personality of their makers, while books have a lot more of their readers in them.

Movies and books are both wonderful, beautiful things. Thing is, I know much more about movies than books as I’m a very visual thinker. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about the great authors of our time, but you ask me one question about any film from a Hollywood blockbuster to an 80s slasher film and I can spew out more trivia than your average google search.

As for reading books, I’ll freely admit my guilt in not reading some of the best ever written. The Great Gatsby, Gone With the Wind, Slaughterhouse Five, 1984, the list goes on and on of great books which never graced my unfortunate eyes. Perhaps it’s because I better process the auditory and visual information in movies. I like seeing and hearing all these things, looking at a good piece of cinematography or hearing a great score to go along with it. With books however, you get to make your own. Chose your own actors, write your own music. You could have Dumbledore played by everyone from Gregory Peck to Harrison Ford.

Harrison Ford as Dumbledore. How kickass is that?

What about what goes into making either one? That perhaps is where the two differ the most. Though I always dreamed of being a film maker, the actual making part always filled me with dread.

Movies require many things. They require money, untold numbers of man hours, crew, safety regulations, you name it. These are all things one must consider when making a motion picture, because movies do have limitations. A first time director isn’t going to get a job directing a megabucks movie.

Also, as much as this pains me to admit, you don’t have that much creative freedom in movies, especially a big studio film. Studios give you the money, and they want a product they can sell. I suppose this does make sense. If I shoveled that amount of cash at someone, I would want them to follow certain rules also. Studios won’t give you that kind of money to see your dreams come true. Movies are art, but they’re expensive art, and expensive art has to sell.

With a book though, there is no crew, there is no limit on budget, and there is no person looking over your shoulder whispering yay or nay. You just set your fingers loose on a keyboard and watch them dance. You can do this anywhere you want. On a lake, in the few hours before work, on a vacation to Universal Studios, wherever your fingers can meet those keys. If something goes wrong, just erase it and start over. No time to reset the effects and actors. It’s ready to go as soon as you are.

Best part about a book though, is there is no waiting. No waiting for someone to green-light a passion project you’ve been wanting to make for the last twenty years. No waiting for a bigwig to take a passing interest in that baby that means so much to you. Whatever project you want to do, whichever one is most in your heart at that moment, that’s the one you make.

You can do whatever you want, whenever you want when writing a book, and that’s the dream of any artist. You want to sink an entire continent into the sea? Have an entire city fly to the moon? Whatever you can imagine, it only costs the ink to print it and the paper to put it on, available at any fine retailer. It takes only two things, your patience, and your time.

Still, making a movie is an experience. It’s collaborative. You meet and work with a lot of people. You make memories while making a movie, of late nights and early mornings, hanging out and trying the catering, all the things that have gone wrong and all the things that went right. It may be stressful, but it’s the stuff memories are made of. When all is said and done, it’s a mountainous achievement.

Making a movie is much more challenging than writing a book, but in the end, both are just as rewarding for the artist and their audience. Honestly, I’m not sure which is better for me now. Film has made a much greater impact on me. They were my focus on college and in my dreams for almost twenty years. But the writing of a book was such an enjoyable and free process, it was the first time in my life where I felt free of any limitations. Whatever story I wished to tell, I could just get started.

I’m still working on both careers. I have a meeting with someone who’s wanting to work together on shorts and features, and you better believe I’m completing my fantasy/adventure book series. The question now is which one I find more fulfilling, the challenge of filmmaking, or the freedom of book writing.

It has given me a lot to think about.

 

The Perks of Hearing Criticism

Since the hiring of a professional editor for my first book, the project has been moving in very interesting directions. I have always said on this blog that receiving criticism is one of the most important parts of the writing process, and that has certainly applied here.

Chapter 4 of my book is a brief vignette where the characters swing by a city in order to establish it. The city in question serves as the location for the climax of the story, so it seemed appropriate to set it up as well as several of the characters in it beforehand. As it was written, it served as a brief action scene where my main character, a dragon, intimidates the residents of the town.

Writing the scene, I couldn’t help but feel it was very tedious. True there was some colorful description, but the scene of fire and mayhem lasted two pages without a line of dialogue to break the action.

Upon completing her edit of Chapter 4, my editor and I held a meeting on Skype. We talked about some of our issues with the manuscript, with me talking about my concerns and ideas I wanted to get across. While discussing chapter 4, she made a very interesting point.

“I really enjoyed this city you set up, but was disappointed we didn’t get to explore it.”she said.

Hearing that small phrase created a flood of questions and ideas. Why does this have to be an action scene? Why can’t it be more based on exploration and dialogue? How does the action help establish the characters? And so forth.

The flood of creativity that came next was like a dam breaking. After applying her suggested edits to my work, I went back over the chapter, deleted the entire action scene out of the chapter and replaced it instead with a scene of quiet intimidation. There is much more to enjoy this this newer version, a fair bit of humor, seeing more of the town and its culture, and focusing more on character as opposed to spectacle.

It was longer, more detailed, and a lot more fun to write as well as read.

I honestly don’t know how I got an editor as good as this for as cheap as I got her, but she has been amazing, and her input on this project has been nothing but beneficial.

Joseph Buehrer Character Artwork

A lot of work has gone into this, but the page detailing my illustrator, Joseph Buehrer’s concept sketches for some of the leading characters of Never Heroes is at last up to date. Now featuring new text and artwork, this article features all of Joseph’s hard work with characters ranging from orphans to soldiers, from elves to orcs, all created in loving detail. These concept sketches have come in handy for our more detailed illustrations.

Please swing by and check out this article if you have the time. It is a real feast for the eyes.

Joseph Buehrer Character Designs

Meet and Greet Weekend @ Dream Big: 3/11/16

Dream Big, Dream Often

always dream big orlando espinosa credit: orlandoespinosa.com

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend at Dream Big!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!  So hit the reblog button.
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet n Greet your butts off!

See ya on Monday!!

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Developing a Character Over A Series

It’s been three years since the completion of Breaking Bad, and it’s still considered a chilling and effective character study of a man slowly losing his soul. The saga of Walter White’s descent into depravity is regarded as one of the most well rounded and defined character arcs ever put to the screen, small or large. You talk to anyone, they’ll tell you the same thing.

“Walt was such a nice guy at the start of the show.”

Breaking Bad is one of the best examples of developing a character over a series, something that in writing, can be incredibly difficult. Organizing and executing an effective character arc is difficult enough in one book or film. To do it in several requires great tact and precision.

In a series, like in any individual book or film, you want your character to be changed by the end. To see them go through the same arc over and over again would make any sequels dull and repetitive. Where’s the fun in a sequel if it’s just a repeat? There are plenty of solid examples of characters that go through amazing changes in their respective series, and looking at individual cases can teach you any number of methods to use.

Luke-Skywalker-1

Luke Skywalker of Star Wars is a good example. At the start of A New Hope, he is an idealist who yearns to escape from his home and be something great. It’s an old story, but where it goes next is what makes the character work. Over the series, he learns painful truths about his past, calling into question his black and white views of good and evil. With his newfound insight, his quest changes from one of destroying his enemy, to saving him.

A quest or journey where the goal itself changes does a lot to show a character’s growth. Previously a journey that seeks destruction, Luke’s changes to one of liberation, and shows how he has matured in his views of conflict. This is one way to develop a character over a series. Another way is to reveal something new about them, like the Indiana Jones character.

Indiana-Jones

Each film in the Indiana Jones series focuses on a distinct area of his journey as an archeologist, coming to appreciate the value of the artifact he’s after or overcoming greed and giving an artifact back to its rightful owners. Last Crusade is the most interesting, which delves into his relationship with his father. The character is laid bare before the audience, causing us to more closely look over and scrutinize his actions.

Looking at his once troubled home life and desperate attempts to reconnect with his father, one looks at the previous films with new eyes. Is he trying to outdo his father? Is he finally trying to win his approval? Last Crusade isn’t just character development, but a revelation. This revelation doesn’t just flesh him out in Last Crusade, it ads dimension to him in the previous films, an astounding accomplishment in storytelling.

A character’s quest changing to a reveal about who they are both work great in developing characters over a series. Still, there are other ways, like having a character seeming to embody one set of ideals, when in truth, they embody something else.

Harry-Callahan-1

Inspector Harry Callahan, aka Dirty Harry, is a hot button character. He’s a cop who doesn’t play by the rules in a system he views as broken, violating numerous laws and Constitutional codes on his quest for what he views as justice. In the first film, Harry regularly complains about what law has become, dispensing with civil liberties and allowing his magnum to do the talking. The sequels however show someone far more fascinating.

In the second film, Magnum Force, he’s confronted by a gang of dirty cops executing criminals. Instead of siding with them, Harry sees them for the criminals they are and deals with them exactly the same as anyone else. Then there’s the forth film, Sudden Impact. After finding out a serial killer he’s tracking is a rape victim killing her attackers, Harry has come to empathize with her so strongly, he can’t arrest her. The once lethally effective cop has developed such empathy, he can’t even do his job anymore.

Harry is a good example of a character who seems one note when truth, there’s a far deeper humanity within him. In many ways he tricks his audience with an urban wild west, and delivers instead something more provocative. This series doesn’t just see its character change, but speaks directly to its audience in an effort to teach them something new. That’s exactly what a character and a story should do.

From Walter White to Indiana Jones, from Callahan leaning right before bolting to the left, each of these characters shows many different ways to which a character can grow and evolve over a series, be it books, films, or any other medium.

One must find a balance thought. By the end of Breaking Bad, Walter White is still human enough to do something selfless and admit he was wrong. In Sudden Impact, Harry still pulls out his six shooter and blows some bad guys out of their socks. People do enjoy coming back to see a favorite character over and over again. One must remember that people change in real life. Going on a journey with a character and seeing them change is like watching a real life friend or relative change. It makes the audience feel that much closer to them, because it makes them that much more real.