Story – Robert McKee's Creative Storytelling Magazine Issue 005 – Drew Carey - Page 46

CHARACTER CREATION ever, hide an unconscious need behind an action hero’s conscious desire. James Bond, for example, lacks nothing and needs nothing; he is perfect and complete. The world is imperfect, and it is his job to fix it. Rather, we create character need in genres that demand characters with complex natures: love stories, psychological thrillers, social dramas, family dramas, coming-of-age stories, and the like. Among the many differences between event-driven and character-driven stories are these three primary differences. First, an event-driven story defines the protagonist by what she wants—a desire she has for something outside of herself. A character-driven story defines the protagonist by what she lacks—an unconscious need that, if she should fulfill it, would complete her inner humanity. Second, in a pure event-driven story, the hero/protagonist struggles to give the world what the world needs, which is expressed in values such as peace, justice, a brotherhood, survival and the like. In a pure character-driven story, the struggles of the protagonist to fill the hole in her humanity are expressed in values such as love, maturity, trust, hope, and the like— values that she lacks. Most importantly, the third difference between event-driven and character-driven stories be- gins with this understanding: The shape of all stories in all genres is determined by how its characters choose to act and react to what happens. As I’ve stated in lecture and in print many times, the events of the story are created out of the choices, actions, and reactions of its characters. The characters are the kinds of creatures who would choose to act and react to what happens in the way that they do. If the writer changes the events, she must change her characters. If the writer changes her characters, she must change the events to fit them. Event and character are just two sides of the same coin. crime, he blows the whistle on his employer, he leaves home, he believes somebody’s lie, he searches for the truth, etc. Of course, the writer does not always have to choose between one of these two kinds of causality exclusively over the other. The reasons things happen in a story need not be pure. Events, both inside and outside of the character’s control, can be mixed and balanced, even. A story can be as character-driven as it is event-driven, but generally the reason things happen tend to be more one than the other. This understanding, however, doesn’t answer the question of who or what causes the story’s major events to happen. The greatest difference between event-driven versus character-driven stories is determined by the primary source of causality. Who or what is most responsible for causing the story’s critical turning points? Stories of war, for example, often mix these two causalities. Nicholas Monsarrat’s World War II novel The Cruel Sea is a wonderful example. Acts of war and the forces of Mother Nature, of course, are beyond the control of the ship’s captain and crew. But how they choose to react and act in the face of hurricanes and enemy attacks is always in their hands. In an event- or plot-driven story, the major events, especially the first few act climaxes, are caused by forces outside of the protagonist’s control. Criminals commit crime, dictators declare war, plagues sweep through the world, aliens invade Earth, the sun falls from the sky. In character-driven stories, the major events are caused by forces within the protagonist’s control. He falls in love, he commits a Finally and critically, the writer of a character-driven story seeks to fill the need that she created in her character at the beginning and supply what the protagonist lacks over the course of the story—to take the character to the limits of human potential, even if the only way that that protagonist can reach those limits and complete herself as a human being is to suffer and perhaps to end in tragedy. Story Magazine // Issue 005