Donkey Hote

October 22, 2008

In the Michael Hauge lecture, he touched on two key types of secondary characters and several types of stories. My further notes:

Other characters in your story:

  1. The nemesis. This is the character who most stands in the way of the hero as he sets out to achieve his outer goal. The nemesis is at cross purposes with the hero, yet he embodies the hero’s inner conflict. The hero might discover how unlike the nemesis he is, or he might realize he needs to become more like the nemesis. (Maureen’s inner journey is to learn what a real leap of faith is, not just give lip service to it.) The nemesis stands up for the essence of the hero’s character.
  2. The reflection. This is the sidekick character. Don Quixote’s Sancho. Donkey in Shrek. He is defined by the hero’s outer motivation. He is there to help and encourage the hero to achieve his goal. He tries to get the hero to go after his goal. He reveals the hero’s inner conflict: “What are you doing? Why? This is not who you are…” He holds the hero’s feet to the fire.

Types of love stories:

  • 1. Romance is defined by pursuit. The hero can’t get the girl unless he reaches his goal, or abandons or changes his goal (a la Rain Man).
  • In a romance, there needs to be a clear, logical reason for the characters to be together. They can’t just be in love because they’re in the same story together.
  • The romantic interest character is the one who sees beneath the hero’s identity and connects at the level of essence. There is a deep connection; the love interest sees her naked (intimacy) and makes her risk being vulnerable and exposed even if it feels dangerous. The love interest must embody the hero’s essence. [Core conflict for Maureen & Eddie–she is too afraid/repressed to leave her family. He is afraid of showing how truly good he is at music because it exposes his vulnerability. She has what he secretly yearns for–a close family, a home. He has what she yearns for–a rambling footloose life of adventure. ]
  • If there’s a love story without a character arc, that’s probably porn. 🙂
  • 2. A romantic comedy almost always involves deception. Deception is a powerful way of creating conflict. The character might practice a deception in order to achieve a visible goal. Maybe she pretends to be someone she’s not (Working Girl. Aladdin). During the pretense, she meets someone who believes she’s not who she’s pretending to be. The love interest falls in love with the pretend-person.
  • If revealed, the deception could destroy the romance.
  • Deception symbolizes the deeper deception of the heros struggle between false identity and true essence.
  • A romantic comedy demands a happy ending.

General comments

  • Show the love interests meeting on the page, not in the past. FALLING in love is the whole reason for the story’s existence. The reader wants to see this and experience it moment by moment.
  • Show the reader the new life the hero achieves. Let the reader absorb the peak emotion of the climax.
  • It’s possible to write a story of an outer journey only, but you can create more emotion if you combine an inner and outer journey.
  • Everything has been done before. Great stories are consistent in their basic foundation, but unique in the particulars. Don’t worry about being original, just don’t copy the particulars of a story. Work harder to make your story seem unique and new. Find a new way to use the principles of a classic story.
  • Montage and flashback are the lazy way out, in general. They can be hackneyed. More effective in real time. Try dialogue.
  • Ayn Rand heros don’t have arcs. Adrenalin-powered thrillers might not have an arc.

A few of the films cited in the lecture:

  • Wedding Crashers
  • Shrek
  • Titanic
  • Good Will Hunting
  • I am Legend
  • Rain Man
  • Stand by Me
  • Titanic
  • Tootsie
  • Pretty Woman

Treat yourself to a movie tonight! And tomorrow, look for the conclusion and the most important statement a writer needs to make for herself.


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