Monday, 12 October 2009

character development: the point of no return

Otherwise called that 'Oh sh-' moment where a character realises they must 'do something' about a situation or confront something that exposes them to a flaw or vulnerability.  Recognising the point of no return as a point for activity means the following:

Clear Options - Doing nothing must lead to obvious negative consequences.  Retreat must be worse.  If they didn't bury their heads in the sand, signposts for different options need to be apparent. At least one option represents a theme at odds with the character and their goals or one where a weakness, flaw or gap comes into play.  From such seeds conflict will arise, whether it's external battles or inner struggle.

Boons - The character may have help in dealing with the conflict - in the form of people (Merlin), places (Rivendell) or even objects (e.g. Luke Skywalker's lightsaber). They can provide advice, safe refuge or even the tools to achieve success, not only at the point of no return but beyond...

Boons may be related to the theme of the story or adventure, or reflect the attributes of the hero or those attributes sought by the hero (e.g Excalibur is a symbol of kingship and martial power). They help to complete the character if they have suffered in the events leading up to the point of no return (Frodo is healed at Rivendell before leaving with the Fellowship).

Banes - Building a better enemy for a character has been discussed in my post on antagonists. They represent the opposing side of the conflict, in some cases a dark mirror of or an embodiment of the flaws or limitations of that character. The enemy may have boons of their own – or perhaps be the guardian of the boons for the character to obtain.

Banes can also be foils rather than foes, some foils can be turned into allies (e.g. Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca) while others may remain an aggravation and lesson as what failure can lead to. While foils can threaten the character, this is usually not potentially lethal to the character, that perogative belongs to the villain.

Threshold - This is a locus, a place or state of mind that must be achieved in order to begin dealing with the issues determined by the theme or leading to this situation.  The threshold can be a literal doorway or cliff top, or it can be a psychological crisis or journey.  What happens next is up to the character...

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