#TypesTuesday – Three Silent Greats

Types Tuesday

There is a Slapstick Film Festival and other, related, events every year in Bristol.  The 2018 Festival has just been announced HERE for the coming year.

Aardman Animation (Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, etc.) is a big sponsor of the festival.  Slapstick figures heavily in all their feature and short film development.

One of my first assignment for the company was to do an Emotional Toolbox analysis of three of their favorite silent film era characters. Even without words the types of these three characters come shining through.

Charlie Chaplin greatest character traits are his wistfulness and poetic soul.  He is a Power of Idealism character.  Loss and longing figure prominently in all his stories. He is a sensitive soul who shuffles along with sadness as his constant companion.

Buster Keaton is a Power of Reason character.  He is an ingenious problem solver with a deadpan attitude.  He is so stiff emotionally that his nickname was “The Great Stone Face”.  He had a mechanical style and tackled all situations with a  robotic refusal to give up.

Harold Lloyd is an optimistic can-do Power of Ambition character.  He tackles all obstacles with enthusiasm and brash confidence.  His film characters want to be popular and live the easy life.  These men find redemption through hard work, learning to act with integrity, or forming real relationships through honest sincere love.

 

 

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#ThinkpieceThursday – Why Nine Character Types?

Thinkpiece Thursday

I’ve often been asked: “Why nine character types?  Why not seven or thirteen or any other number?”

Let’s begin at the beginning. Western societies use a Hindu Arabic base-ten number system. Nine is the terminal numeral before moving to another decade or numeric cycle. The final number, Nine, represents unity, completion, and perfection. In numerology, the world progresses in distinct nine-year cycles. For computer programmers, “999” means “end of file”. The Enneagram is an ancient Sufi teaching that has nine distinct personality points.

Nine is a Symbolic Gateway to Knowledge and Inspiration

The number Nine symbolized a mystical gateway to knowledge across many different cultural traditions. The Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Vikings all used the number nine to guide human beings toward some kind of transcendent truth, knowledge, inspiration or spiritual awareness.

In Greek and Roman Mythology

The Greek God, Zeus, had nine daughters, called the Muses, who orchestrated and presided over all creative endeavors. The Muses were also the daughters of the female titan Mnemosyne who personified remembrance. Muse means one who remembers.

In the ancient Greek and Roman world, all knowledge, and learning were under the patronage of these Muses. They inspired poetry, theater, music, dance, and art. Ancient educational institutions each dedicated a shrine or temple to the Muses. Such a place called as a mouseion, which is the Greek root of the modern word “museum.”

In the Ancient Greek and Roman world, creativity, memory and the passing on of knowledge and inspiration were all inextricably linked with the number nine.

In the Ancient World of Jerusalem

There were nine doors to the holiest part of the Temple in Ancient Jerusalem. These nine doors were the gateway to G_d. Why nine doors? In the Kabbalah, writings on Jewish mysticism, the number nine symbolizes the transcendent world because nine is a threshold number that allows for the transition to the next level of existence (to move from the world of one digit numbers to the world of the two digit numbers i.e., 1 + 9 moves to the next level of two-digit numbers 10 and so on.).

Multiplying by nine also reveals the mirror symmetry among numbers. If any number is multiplied by nine the resulting single digits always add up to nine. For example 2 x 9 = 18 (1 + 8 = 9); 3 x 9 = 27 (2 + 7 = 9), 4 x 9 = 36 (3 + 6 = 9) and so on.

The ancient Hebrews referred to the number nine as a mystical threshold between one world and the next and the symbol of immutable Truth.

In the Muslim World

The Holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. The month of Ramadan is traditionally believed to be the time when the Quran (Koran or Muslim Bible) was sent down from heaven, as a guide to living a good and proper life and as a means to learn how to achieve holiness and enter the gateway of salvation.

Nine and the World and Underworld

Viking mythology describes the Cosmos as being composed by nine worlds. The Ancient Mayans believed that human consciousness and history was built on nine distinct underworlds. The Divine Comedy, an epic poem written by the Italian, Dante Alighieri, in the fourteenth century, describes the author’s allegorical journey through the afterlife. In The Inferno, Dante describes nine circles of hell. In each circle, the sinners are guilty of one of three kinds of sin.

Three is a Number of Unity and Completion

Three is also considered a mystical number. Nine is divided equally into three parts with three in each part. Since ancient times the number three has symbolized unity and completion. The trinity of life is composed of substance (or form), intellect (or intelligence) and soul (or life essence). Three also symbolizes the trinity of the individual person as head (intellect), heart (emotion) and hand (physical being or physical action). Or the trinity of the family: father, mother, and child.

In Christian Tradition


In Christianity, God is divine as the Trinity. According to the Catholic Encylopedia: “The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion– the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” The Holy Trinity forming a single God of unity and completion.

In Buddhist Teaching

According to the Buddhist tradition, all phenomena (dharmas) are marked by three characteristics, sometimes referred to as the Dharma Seals. The first seal, Anatta, is the unchanging, permanent essence of the soul. The second, Anicca, is the inconstant, unsteady, and impermanence of physical being. The third, Dukkha, is the self or world as it perceived by the individual and others.

In Hindu Tradition

Hindu teaching divides the cosmos into a set of three planes. Bhuloka is the “Earth world,” and is the physical plane of existence Antarloka is “Inner or in-between world,” and is the world of dreams and imagination. Sivalok is the “World of Siva,” and is the realm of the Gods, the saints and the most highly evolved souls.

The Magic Square

A magic square is three sets of three. It is created when each single digit number is used only once, but the horizontal, vertical and diagonal sums are all equal. (4 + 9 + 2 = 15 and 4 + 3 + 8 = 15 and so on). The sum 15 is also divisible by 9 and equals 3 (the number of each square in the row or diagonal).

The magic square was considered a sacred and powerful symbol in the Ancient Islamic, Tibetan, Buddhist, Celtic, Indian and Jewish traditions. The Chinese patterned their architectural temples along the harmonious principles of the magic square.

If this diagram looks familiar, you might recognize it as a basis for the popular 9 square by 9 square Sudoku number puzzle.

Now you know why there are 9 character types- time to check out some articles on all of them, and to learn more you can purchase my eBooks on the ETB store.

#TypesTuesday – Community and Interdependent Characters

Types Tuesday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

Despite gaining something of a cult status after its six-season run, NBC sitcom Community still isn’t talked about enough. Not only is it smart and consistently funny, but its sweet and a true testament to the Power of Imagination. We’ve all suffered or enjoyed being part of a study group at some point in our life- no matter how absurd it gets, the show has always been relatable or at least has had an emotional truth to it.

The show is a  brilliant lampooning of various kinds of Film and TV tropes, but the reason it works so well emotionally is “The Greendale Seven”.  The Seven is a study group originally formed for a Spanish class.  All seven then go on to take Anthropology, Biology, and History. In addition to The Study Group, their flamboyant Dean and insane former Spanish teacher round out the ensemble.

As the show progressed, certain actors from the key group of nine left the show and the emotional holes are all too visible.. Like in life, there is a bittersweet passage of time- although that doesn’t really justify a drop in quality. It just proves that character is always key. This is a lesson that both Lost and, perhaps, Twin Peaks could have learned from. The simpler something is, the better.

The Study Group is utterly dependent upon each other.  Their dynamic is severely impacted when anyone is missing. They even regress as people, in some instances. I’ll be exploring how each member is part of a jigsaw puzzle that only really works when every piece is put together. Without each and every person, the show doesn’t quite work as effectively.

Power of Will

“Get me something cold and imported”

Although it could be argued greatness is thrust upon him, no Power of Imagination character would be able to control a group of people in the same way Jeff does- that character type is for the most part selfless. Jeff is every bit a Power of Will character. However, he is not a villain but instead a complex protagonist. He may be in control most of the time, but he only ever flexes his muscles when he is challenged, or actually called upon to enforce his will on others. Although he doesn’t often actively seek to be a leader or be in control, when his authority is threatened by outsiders he becomes aggressive. This is when his Power of Will character is most apparent.

Despite his obsession with his health and physique, he prides himself on avoiding work and actually putting in effort- the very crux of the show is that Jeff has to go back to college because he falsified his qualifications.  He is terrified of losing control and will do whatever he can to keep it. If anyone is considered better than Jeff, he will snap- this is when his Power of Will character is most apparent. He is terrified of losing control and will do whatever he can to keep it. If anyone is considered better than Jeff, he will snap- this is atypical behaviour of Power of Will characters.

So he may not conquer and dominate, but when someone gives him power willingly, as he is charming and convincing, he becomes obsessing with keeping it- and it is the Study Group that encourages him to act on the Power of Will personality he has. It is fascinating to see a protagonist that is a Power of Will character, because they exhibit traits that are traditionally considered by villainous and antagonistic. But he is incredibly likeable whether we see his flaws or at his default mode of “the leader”. As the show goes on, his warmth and affection becomes more apparent and he softens. However, his Power of Will traits can come through at any moment.

Power of Idealism

“You seemed much smarter when I met you”

“Thank You”

Being part of a group means Britta can indulge the worst traits of being a Power of Idealism character type. She wallows in self-pity, suffering intense mood swings and always having someone to exhibit her intense pain or joy to. Whilst the Study Group can actually benefit each other in some way, acting as foils for each other’s character types, Britta is the only member who actually outright suffers by being part of a group. By actually belonging and being backed up by friends, there is no epic drama so she has to create it.

A former “political activist”, in the loosest sense, Britta Perry (Gillian Jacobs) has an interesting arc in that she goes backwards once she joins the Study Group. Every other member either remains an unchanging constant, or evolves into a better person. Britta begins as the stable heart of the group, but soon becomes referred to as “the worst” and a “buzzkill”, and it’s all downhill from there.

She soon becomes the clown of the group, even more so than Pierce. This can be attributed both to the dynamic of the Study Group, but also the fact she is a Power of Idealism character. These characters, such as Carrie Bradshaw, Rick Blaine and Zhivago, believe life is a dramatic struggle, forever needing to be epic and exceptional. Britta preaches activism constantly, reminding people of how the system is oppressing them, and how there is injustice they should be speaking out against, yet she can never quite deliver on this herself.

However, her constant striving to tackle what’s wrong in the world does rub off on the rest of the group- more often than not, she is the one to tone down Jeff, or make Pierce be more considerate of how his actions affect others. It is interesting how her character can, in moments of clarity, save the Study Group from itself by reminding them never to be complacent.

Power of Reason

“TV adheres to logic, reason, rules. But in real life, we have this. We have you.”

Power of Reason characters see the world as a series of puzzles to be solved, and always use a frame of reference to decipher things, be it a simple conversation or an actual mystery. Abed’s frame of reference is Popular Culture. When he does not get his way, and people or events deviate from his line of reasoning, he goes beserk. This is a regular occurrence and is the only time we see the cool, logical Abed a dramatic breakdown.

Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) may not be the leader of the group, or even its central focus, but he is certainly its heart. He represents the best and worst about Community. Although it is a habit he improves upon as the show progresses, and the Study Group makes him less of a Power of Reason character, Abed filters his understanding of the world through what he sees in Movies, TV shows and comic books. He believes real life is like a TV show, and is obsessed with meta narratives.

He is a classic Power of Reason character, only getting emotionally involved with events when he believes it will drive forward the narrative of the TV show in his head, or a student film he happens to be making. The Study Group inadvertently helps him engage more emotionally and be more socially conscious, but they also encourage his bad habits by going along with many of his more insane ideas that allow him to better understand the world. Because he does not get tangled up in petty arguments and affairs of the heart, like everyone else, his detachment can often resolve conflict. In his most graceful moments, Abed is capable of incredible warmth because of the friends he surrounds himself with- and it is a pure warmth because he is unaware of his impact on others as it is a distraction for him and he admits to not fully comprehending things in the same way as the others.

Power of Conscience

“I am being assertive, and it is getting results!”

Power of Conscience characters, especially in comedies, are exposed for their hypocrisies, and the dark side of their character- going to extremes to maintain what they believe is just- can make for some very funny scenarios. We learn that Annie is unhinged and it is always hilarious, rather than disturbing. She starts as uptight, obsessed with maintaining order, and eventually learns to relax- but evens as her character learns and grows, she maintains a neurotic streak that comes out at the most inconvenient times.

Annie begins as one of the strongest characters, but in the show’s final season she is doing evolving and is given little to do, rarely relapsing into her old ways but losing the essence of her character.

Starting out as arguably the “child” of the group, even though she and Troy are the same age, Annie Edison (Alison Brie) is one of the characters who actually grows up and matures throughout the course of the show (as do Troy, Abed and Jeff. The others, not so much). However, the trappings of being a Power of Conscience character remain throughout.

When we are introduced to Annie, she is a goody two-shoes bookworm who always believes in what she deems to be fair and this is why her constant clashes with cheating slacker Jeff are so amusing. She is met with the polar opposite to herself, and their relationship is one of the most enduring in the show because they change each other for the better.

Power of Imagination

“You moving in here was supposed to tone us down!”

It’s interesting in such a madcap sitcom about a community college that former jock Troy Barnes (Donald Glover) has greatness thrust upon him in a place where no epic quest is ever likely to unfold. However, Troy’s arc from ignorant egotist to a hero with a heart of gold is arguably the most satisfying character arc out of anyone in Community. He leaves the show eventually with his head held high, and has changed for the better because of his time at Greendale with the Study Group. Whenever the show frequently takes diversions into genre spoofs of everything from westerns and space operas to police procedurals and action movies, Troy is always our reluctant hero even if he is not the natural leader.

Surprisingly, it is Power of Excitement character Pierce who turns to him most often for guidance and support (similar, in fact, to the dynamic of Rick and Morty). In fact, at some point every character puts their trust in Troy even when he believes he can’t help them. Like any Power of Imagination character, Troy brings harmony and balance, in this case to Greendale.

But, mostly because of his emotional investment in Abed, Troy willing to go along with the regular descents into high-concept madness that Community takes. He is a conventional Power of Imagination character in an unconventional setting you wouldn’t expect to house a reluctant hero like Troy.

He is the only person who truly understands Abed, and their friendship is one of the most charming in American television. He often guides Abed and assists him more than anyone else, because he has responsibility placed on him to guide his friends on the right path, whether it is in a ludicrous scenario or real-life dilemmas. Whether his foil is Power of Excitement or Power of Reason, Troy is forced to step up for the good of those around him.

Power of Excitement

“Ain’t no party without drugs!”

Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) is a perennial agent of chaos, immediately identifying him as a Power of Excitement character. Pierce adheres to every stereotype of a Power of Excitement character- constantly seeking to please himself and have fun, he gets bitter and jealous when he is excluded from anything exciting, often with disastrous results.

A spoilt man-child who inherited a moist towelette empire, despite belonging to an accepting Study Group, Pierce often sabotages his friends as well as himself simply through his personality. As we explore his backstory through the show, we learn he is very much a “Peter Pan” type who never really grew up on account of his enormous wealth and oppressive father. He may not be the suave playboy type, like other Power of Excitement characters such as James Bond, Tony Stark or Indiana Jones, but his downfall is his refusal to ever settle. He has studied at Greendale longer than any of his friends because it is the only place where he can get his “fix”.

Pierce has moments of elderly wisdom and profound kindness, but they are few and far between. When these moments occur, they have so much more impact because it is unexpected, so is never completely irredeemable, but he never really evolves because of belonging to the Study Group, remaining a constant irritant and disruptor. However, there is an entire episode dedicated to the group dynamic when they temporarily exclude Pierce, and it becomes apparent that they need him every bit as much as he needs them.

Power of Love

“He’s dead to me, and anyone who goes to that fight will be too. Now, let’s sing!”

Power of Love characters may not mean to be so domineering and aggressive, but it is in their nature, and Shirley is no exception. Everything Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) does is for those that she loves, whether it’s her sons, the Study Group or Jesus. She often believes she has to save her immoral friends in the Study Group from themselves. Even her friends have described her as “cloying” before.

But Shirley always means well- there are rarely malicious or selfish actions behind her intentions. But she displays the archetypal flaws of Power of Love characters- her affection and concern seems to translate in possessiveness and and aggressive need to dominate her friends hearts. Just because she seems sweet, besides her constant baked goods, doesn’t mean she is innocent.

Shirley sometimes just doesn’t understand why her friends don’t listen to everything she suggests, but she is relentless in making them see her point of view for their own good. She has sometimes even admitted that she is so kind and affectionate so that others will love her unquestionably.

Surprisingly, the characters who understand her most are Jeff and Pierce- sharing similar traits and the more life experience than their younger friends, these two relationships in particular are interesting because they show each other their strengths as well as their flaws. A Power of Love character makes sense as part of an ensemble, be it dramatic or comedic. Shirley belongs in the Study Group and the other members don’t realize how important it is they have a friend like her, just as flawed by the most loving and forgiving of them all.

Power of Truth

“I’m nuts, Jeff! Get with the program!”

Power of Truth characters are usually Detectives like Clarice Starling, or neurotic observers like Jerry Seinfeld. They believe there is always something sinister going on, often involving him. These characters are often paranoid, and forever restless. There is no one more paranoid, and of the belief there is a great conspiracy afoot, then former Spanish-teacher-turned-student Benjamin Franklin Chang (Ken Jeong).

Chang is a borderline psychopath, constantly destructive and on the surface seems like an agent of chaos. But he is not a Power of Excitement character because he isn’t looking for adventure and pleasure. He genuinely acts out of a feeling of rejection.He just believes people are out to get him, and rightfully so- people constantly reject him and this only fuels his actions.

Whenever the student body of Greendale become exaggerated heroes or villains in high-concept episodes like the Paintball trilogy, Chang is usually switching allegiances or seeking those he (wrongly) believes are evil and bringing them to justice. His biggest desire is to belong to the Study Group, but he is not Power of Ambition because he doesn’t put on a front.

He is an outsider to the Study Group, and Chang shows us that, to quote another supporting character, “their love is toxic”. Because of they way they are, unwilling to accept outsiders, characters that want to belong with them, like Chang and Dean Pelton, find their character traits exacerbated. If the Study Group simply accepted Chang, he may have identified as Power of Excitement or Power of Ambition.

Power of Ambition

“I heard you guys having a tiff. What’s the ruckus?”

“We were just wondering how often a man can come in here wearing an elaborate costume to deliver us irrelevant news.”

Like all Power of Ambition characters, Dean Craig Pelton (Jim Rash) wants to put on a front of being, at the very least, competent. He might even achieve it if he wasn’t so occupied with trying to join a group of students. Power of Ambition characters tend to pride themselves on some form of material wealth, or lifestyle, anything that can show them to be the best, or outstanding in some way. For Dean Pelton, it is his numerous costumes, clearly a literal disguise for his need to please and to impress.

He will often show up out of nowhere, interrupt a Study Group meeting in an attempt to become involved with the plot of the episode. He is an incredibly lovable character despite this, and the Study Group are genuinely fond of him, something he is either unaware of or chooses to overlook- it’s hard to tell which one of these it is.

All he wants is for Greendale to be respected, for the Study Group to involve him in their zany adventures, and for the love of Jeff- two of these are achievable goals, but because of the Dean’s characteristics as Power of Ambition, one cancels out the other and he ultimately achieves nothing. Despite this, he remains a welcome presence, as opposed to an irrelevant character who leaves no impact since he does not evolve.

For more examples of all the character types, you can purchase my in-depth e-books at the ETB shop, or you can read more articles on all the “Power Of…” types including James Bond, Doctor Who, Batman and Sherlock Holmes, every Tuesday. There are also 9 pinterest boards full of character examples online. Check them out and let us know at ETBHelp@gmail.com if you have any other suggestions.

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#TypesTuesday – Doctor Who: 1 Character, 9 Types

Types Tuesday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

There is no other character in all of film and television like The Doctor from Doctor Who.

Countless actors have delivered unique and differing interpretations of everyone from Hamlet on stage to The Joker on film, Blanche DuBois to Hannibal Lecter. Sometimes characters in TV series like Eastenders or Film franchises like The Avengers are recast.

But The Doctor changes appearance, and retains all past memories. Every actor who has played The Doctor is also playing everyone who has come before them.

It is a fascinating anomaly and means The Doctor has, at some point throughout the show’s 53-year history been every single one of the “Power Of…” character types.What is particularly interesting is that in some way, the defining characteristics of each incarnation are a direct result of how their predecessor died.

The logic of the Regeneration concept allows for this unique quirk no other fictional character is able to do. With the latest actor to play the role, Jodie Whittaker, recently being announced, and the current actor, Peter Capaldi, about to finish his time in the role, it seems like a good time to look at an incarnation of the Doctor who has embodied each of the 9 character types.

BE WARNED! Major spoilers follow for every era of Doctor Who.

Power of Love

The First Doctor (William Hartnell) was introduced as a grandfather who fled his home planet with his Granddaughter, Susan. Every dangerous adventure he undertakes is occupied by a need to protect Susan as much as he also wants to show her the Universe and broaden her horizons. Susan eventually decides to stay with a man she meets on one of their adventures, and though it is heartbreaking for The Doctor, he realizes that letting Susan stay is the safest option for her.

Every dangerous adventure he undertakes is propelled by a need to protect Susan as much as he also wants to show her the Universe and broaden her horizons. Susan eventually decides to stay with a man she meets on one of their adventures, and though it is heartbreaking for The Doctor, he realizes that letting Susan stay is the safest option for her.

He may be remembered as grumpy, but almost every action of this incarnation is motivated by love, even if it doesn’t initially seem like it. This Doctor, despite his appearance, is young and everything he does is for his companions. He isn’t the embittered, battlescarred Doctor we meet later on in the show’s history.

His iconic speech as he bids his Granddaughter farewell shows the love and admiration he has for her:

Power of Ambition

The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) is the result of his predecessor being forced to change appearance against his will, and he wakes up, without his transport, and exiled to earth. He ultimately wants to be accepted by the military taskforce who have hired him, and to return to him people and be accepted by them.

His flamboyant action-hero persona is a cover for a lonely man who just wants acceptance. A classic Power of Ambition character, but one who is justified in his behaviour. His predecessor was forced to regenerate and exiled by his own people. Of course the Third Doctor would be Power of Ambition- the way he was born wouldn’t allow him to be anything else.

In this video him with his typical Power of Ambition attitude towards others:

Power of Will

Just one look at the outfit of The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) tells you everything you need to know about him. His predecessor looked young and acted young. Full of wonder and naivety, he saw the best in people and sacrificed his life to save his companion. Born from selflessness, The Sixth Doctor is brash and rather jarring- he is hard to like until you really get to know him.

Like any Power of Will character, he has the capacity to be boorish and abrasive, which can be as much of a strength as it is a weakness. This particular personality becomes The Doctor’s downfall as he is put on Trial by his own people (again) and pays for it with his life. Power of Will characters believe it is better to burn out than to fade away, and as the below video demonstrates, The Sixth Doctor takes no prisoners and offers no apologies for being Power of Will:

Power of Reason

Having made so much noise in his previous form, The Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) learns from his most recent mistakes by opting for a more calculated, cerebral approach to saving the Universe. As time has gone on, fans and critics alike have praised this darkest of Doctors. Power of Reason characters see everything as a challenge or a puzzle to be solved, and The Seventh Doctor is a big fan of chess, playing everyone off against each other to save the day, be they friend or foe.

Acting the utter fool as a front, this incarnation was a master strategist, reveling in obstacles to overcome and not stopping often enough to think of those who were pushed aside in his quest to find resolution. Ultimately, this drive to outwit everyone would define the character for years to come, as the actions of The Seventh Doctor inadvertently caused The Time War- more on that shortly.

This video, showing The Doctor talking himself out of a gun being pointed in his face, is an excellent example of a Power of Reason character at work:

Power of Idealism

The Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) cut a dashing, Byronic figure. A handsome romantic forever searching for adventure and that next high. He couldn’t be more of a Power of Idealism character, which makes his death all the more tragic. He regenerated from his cold, calculated predecessor on New Year’s Eve, 1999 and was immediately thrown into a race against time to save reality itself, without a moment to pause for breath. He had a love of the finest things in life, and was very much like the great Romantic poets like Shelley.

It was this lust for life which made him blind to the machinations going on in the Universe that resulted in The Time War, a devastating conflict that raged across every dimension. True to his Power of Idealism characteristics, he chose to ignore the conflict, except to play the hero and help those caught in the crossfire, though never interfering because that would involve difficult choices- being a warrior would be beneath him. Ever unique, he would “help where I can. I will not fight.” It was this refusal to try and stop the War that brought about his demise, as he tries to save just one person instead. Forced the regenerate, his end is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all the incarnations, as he tells those who would engineer his rebirth:

I don’t suppose there’s any need for a Doctor anymore. Make me a warrior.

You can watch the whole tragic ending in the video below:

Power of Imagination

Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.

The War Doctor (John Hurt) might be the most interesting incarnation of them all, and not just because he is the one we know the least about. Literally born out of necessity, he was conditioned for conflict and refused to take the name of “The Doctor” as he became a commander in The Time War. Everything we have seen and read of him, however, shows him to be reluctant- to fight, to kill, to forgive himself, even to accept that he is just as much “The Doctor” as everyone who came before and after him.

The War Doctor is every bit the reluctant hero, forced into existence and on an epic quest to end the greatest war in all of creation. Like any Power of Imagination character, greatness is thrust upon him, despite his protestations that he is the “Doctor No More”. There are incarnations that would take this quest on with swagger, many of them citing pacifism and choosing not to let anyone die because of their actions, but not The War Doctor. Forever doubting his is good and heroic, he is exactly like Frodo Baggins or Luke Skywalker, other classic examples of Power of Imagination characters. Exhausted by centuries of war, and having saved the day, this hero gets a happy ending as he regenerates, knowing he can proudly call himself The Doctor again.

The below video shows The War Doctor faced with his greatest decision, which could end the War but wipeout his home planet:

Power of Excitement

Power of Excitement characters are the life and soul of the party, and The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) is relentlessly fun to be around, and a real ladies’ man. But he never dares to look back, or stops to think that he can’t always be the hero. When he reflects on heartbreak or lets down his facade of constant cheeriness and optimism, it is in the most dramatic fashion. Everything he does is with flair, and in pursuit of adventure, but more often than not it is at the cost of those whose paths he crosses. Despite being a hero, like a Power of Excitement character always is, The Tenth Doctor is an agent of chaos.

Ultimately, this thrillseeking incarnation is a deeply tragic character because he rarely stops to reflect on his actions until it is too late. He was born from a predecessor haunted by his actions in the Time War who found love in Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. That love is amplified when he turned into the Tenth Doctor.

At the end of his life, sacrificing himself to save his friend Wilf (Bernard Cribbins), his regeneration is the most destructive and explosive because he held off the process for so long. His parting words were “I don’t want to go” and he seems to be the personification of Dylan Thomas’ quote “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

The below video shows the reckless dark side of this archetypal Power of Excitement character at work, as he defies the very laws of time:

Power of Truth

The Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) came into existence after his predecessor, all alone, finally gave in and regenerated. He was literally given a baptism of fire, his TARDIS in flames and crashing towards Earth. After such a dramatic entrance, he is immediately faced with a multitude of mysteries he must solve, and even when he tries to ignore intrigue, this Doctor must turn detective for the good of those around him.

He finds a family after suffering so much loss as his previous incarnation, and the only way he can keep them safe is to pursue the conspiracies that seem to surround him. Ancient religious orders determined to kill him, a woman who claims to be his wife popping up all over his timelines, and cracks in the skin of the universe that threatens to consume everything. Facing similar challenges as his predecessor, Seventh Doctor, this incarnation has to be cunning, quickwitted, and always alert. The irony is it is this very characteristic is what brings about his end, which haunts him all the way at the start. His era gets very confusing, which seems appropriate for a quintessential Power of Truth character like The Eleventh Doctor.

The below video shows us what happens when a Power of Truth character is proved right, and he gets to the bottom of a mystery. It’s not pretty…

Power of Conscience

The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) began his time in the role obsessed with the question “Am I a good man?”. By the end of his life, desperately trying to save a community of colonists from an army of Cybermen, and stranded with two incarnations his best friend and worst enemy, The Master, he gave a defining speech when confronting them as they fled the chaos, which can be viewed in the video below. It speaks volumes to his character, and is the most obvious evidence that he is a Power of Conscience character through and through.

He started out as a bitter man, his predecessor stranded on Trenzalore for hundreds of years, protecting the planet from swarms of enemies and ending it all from sheer exhaustion. But this incarnation’s face was familiar- in fact, it is the face of a man he saved many years before. It was a reminder to himself to do what is right, no matter the cost. He may have been harsh like the Sixth Doctor at times, but came to prove that despite his gruff exterior, he had a heart the size of The First Doctor. No other incarnation has beat himself up so much about doing the right thing, and never letting injustice occur. Power of Conscience characters think about nothing else, and The Twelfth Doctor is no exception. He thought less of adventure, and more about what it means to be The Doctor- a good man.

What’s Next?

We won’t get our first glimpse of The Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) until Christmas, and we won’t get to know her character until late next year, so it’s impossible to guess what type she will be. But if the conditions of her predecessor’s demise are anything to go by, she could very well be a Power of Love character. Only Time (and Space) will tell.

For more examples of all the character types, you can purchase the in-depth e-books at the ETB shop, or you can read more articles on all the “Power Of…” types including James Bond, Batman and Sherlock Holmes, every Tuesday.

And if you want to start an argument about guest contributor Oscar Harding’s analysis please post in the comments section!

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#ThinkpieceThursday – Destructive Lovers

Thinkpiece Thursday

by Guest Contributor Oscar Harding

There are two possible endings to every love story, either the characters are together at the conclusion or they are apart. If characters are to stay together they must work through their differences and, basically, grow up and grow together. When a love story ends tragically either one character can’t grow up or some greater internal force keeps them apart, like honor or duty.

Recent examples of each end are, Barry Jenkins’ 2016 best picture-winner Moonlight, and Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 Palme D’or-winner Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Spoilers follow for both films. 

In Moonlight, central character Chiron (Ashton Sanders), discovers his sexuality and his love for friend Kevin (Jaden Piner). They are torn apart by Kevin’s brutal betrayal until their reconciliation after more than a decade.

In Blue Is The Warmest Colour, central character Adèle (Adèle Exarchopolous) has some awkward sexual experiences with men before realizing that enigmatic Emma (Lea Seydoux) is the one for her. But two fall out forever over Adèle’s impulsive affair.

Moonlight is a Power of Love story, and Blue is the Warmest Colour is a Power of Idealism story. In a Power of Love story, the couple ends up together. In a Power of Idealism story, they are separated lovers who are haunted by loss and longing.

In Moonlight, Chiron is a shy alienated Power of Reason character and Kevin is a charming eager to please Power of Ambition character. Kevin’s desperate desire to fit in explodes in violence toward Chiron as Kevin tries to fit into a toxic culture of the thuggish gang masculinity. Only drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), a kindly Power of Love character provides the understanding and nurture that Chiron needs in his social isolation. 

Chiron and Kevin are reunited after years apart. A more mature and humbled Kevin discovers Chiron has protected himself with the outward toughness of a thug. Kevin has found contentment as a fry cook who supports his son.  Kevin’s honesty and tenderness give Chiron what he needs- love, not lust. Their relationship shows both men hope for real happiness.

In Blue is the Warmest Colour, both Adèle and Emma are Power of Idealism characters. They are intense, passionate, and gifted. Emma is a bold vibrant painter and Adele is a talented writer, too afraid to show her work and risk possible rejection.

Emma is devoted to Adèle.  Adele is the great love of her life and muse for her glorious early paintings. She believes Adèle is perfect.   Adele is unwilling to accept Emma’s adoration and be satisfied. Adèle fears Emma will ultimately reject her.  She has an affair when Emma is preoccupied with helping a friend.   When Emma discovers Adele’s betrayal they have an explosive screaming break up.

Years later they meet and a reconciliation is possible. But Emma has completed her emotional journey.  She has grown up and finds contentment and peace in an ordinary domestic life.  This grounds her creative growth and helps her mature as an artist.

Adele cannot move past her torment over her lost “great love’ with Emma.  She is adrift in loss and longing and wants Emma back, or to have an affair at the very least.  Emma refuses.  She cherishes her family. Even though Adele is still her passionate “great love” Emma walks away from her. Adele simply cannot move on.

Power of Idealism stories always end with separated lovers.  Other examples are Bridges of Madison County, Casablanca, or Gone with the Wind.

Power of Love stories always end with the lovers together.  Examples are every romantic comedy you’ve ever seen.

Character is structure. Will your couple live happily ever after despite their differences? Or will the lovers part ways, remembering always that “great love” that got away?

 

 

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#TypesTuesday – The Hurt Locker & Power of Idealism

TYPE TUESDAY

Kathryn Bigelow has a new film, Detroit, being released now.  The biggest criticism of the film so far is the lack of a strong central protagonist. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the film yet myself but will write about it soon.

In her previous film, The Hurt Locker, Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) is a memorable Power of Idealism protagonist.  He has a cocky, shoot-from-the-hip, iconoclastic style in defusing roadside explosives.  These deadly bombs are hidden in the sand, in cars, and in the occasional corpse.  He has techniques that are all his own as he travels through the gutted terrain of Iraq ravaged by war, poor planning policies, and the smash-and-burn fury of local insurgents.

Characters driven by the Power of Idealism want to stand out from the crowd, to be extraordinary, unique and special.  They are rebels, iconoclasts, mavericks, and artists of all kinds.

Power of Idealism characters are intense, passionate and rebellious. Everyone in the story immediately recognizes and acknowledges that their role is somehow heroic or “larger than than life.”  They don’t play by anyone else’s rules.

Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) in The Hurt Locker is a quintessential Power of Idealism character.  He is intense, cavalier and is moving swiftly toward becoming a legend.  In this exchange, his reputation grows:

Colonel Reed: You the guy in the flaming car, Sergeant James?

Staff Sergeant William James: Afternoon, sir. Uh, yes, sir.

Colonel Reed: Well, that’s just hot shit. You’re a wild man, you know that?

Staff Sergeant William James: Uh, yes, sir.

Colonel Reed: He’s a wild man. You know that? I want to shake your hand.

Staff Sergeant William James: Thank you, sir.

Colonel Reed: Yeah. How many bombs have you disarmed?

Staff Sergeant William James: Uh, I’m not quite sure.

Colonel Reed: Segeant?

Staff Sergeant William James: Yes, sir.

Colonel Reed: I asked you a question.

Staff Sergeant William James: Eight hundred seventy-three, sir.

Colonel Reed: Eight hundred! And seventy-three. Eight hundred! And seventy-three. That’s just hot shit. Eight hundred and seventy-three.

Staff Sergeant William James: Counting today, sir, yes.

Colonel Reed: That’s gotta be a record. What’s the best way to… go about disarming one of these things?

Staff Sergeant William James: The way you don’t die, sir.

Colonel Reed: That’s a good one. That’s spoken like a wild man. That’s good.

A. O. Scott, writing for the New York Times describes James like this:  “Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) is something else, someone we recognize instantly even if we have never seen anyone quite like him before. He is a connoisseur, a genius, an artist.”

The artistic temperament— and the yearning to be “something more extraordinary” creates a white hot intensity of feeling in these characters.  In contrast, long-term relationships and the comfortable companionship that committed loving couples (and families) share seem suffocatingly pedestrian.

Power of Idealism characters, operating in their Dark Side, are unprepared to make the ordinary, small, everyday sacrifices real long-term every-day love requires, especially when there are children involved.

In this exchange James explains to his infant son:

Staff Sergeant William James: You love playing with that. You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your Mommy, your Daddy. You love your pajamas. You love everything, don’t ya? Yea. But you know what, buddy? As you get older… some of the things you love might not seem so special anymore. Like your Jack-in-a-Box. Maybe you’ll realize it’s just a piece of tin and a stuffed animal. And then you forget the few things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things. With me, I think it’s one.

Staff Sgt. William James wants to live fast, die young, and leave a legend behind. He simply cannot find the extraordinary in ordinary family life. He must follow the adrenaline rush, upping the level of risk, and taking ever more dangerous chances.

For more information on how to create a powerful, dynamic Power of Idealism character, click HERE.

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Why is the Cop on the Job?

In a serialized cop drama the mechanics of “How” a crime is solved is so much less important than “Why” the cops are doing what they are doing and “Why” they are affected by the job. If there is no “Why” it’s just cops going through the motions, which can make a serialized story feel by-the-numbers and hollow.

The “Why” provides the emotion, passion, and inter-personal conflict between the individuals in the story (and all the internal conflict within the character). Too often writers simply project their general idea of being a cop and use the mechanics of “How” to put the cops through their paces— Instead of being specific about “Why” one particular individual is a cop and “Why” he/she does the job in a particular or unique way.

There are four basic categories of “Why” anyone becomes a cop (or a doctor, or any other professional):

1. It’s a job. Being a cop is solid union employment and a dependable way to make a living and support a family. The cop does what is expected and punches out. The cop puts in the time and is concerned and responsible on the job. But he or she doesn’t take the job home and retires as soon as is feasible.

2. It’s a career. Being a cop is a good opportunity for advancement. The cop is working to achieve something else. The job is a means to an end (rising through the ranks, running for political office, becoming a consultant, etc.) It is a stepping- stone to something else and worth the hard work and extra effort to achieve a larger goal.

3. It’s a vocation. Being a cop is a life mission or a higher calling. The cop is there to make a difference, have an important impact, or change people’s lives. The work is a consuming passion for the cop. There is no dividing line between work and personal life. Work is the cop’s life.

4. It’s a mistake. Being a cop is not a good fit. The individual is a cop for the wrong reasons or the wrong motivations. Or the reality of the job doesn’t conform to the ideal of the job or the fantasy of being a cop. In any case, the individual puts in the time and effort, got the job, and now is trapped.

Any kind of employment, but particularly policing, has a variety of people who look at the “Why” of doing the job very differently. All individuals naturally assume their “Why” is the most valid reason or, if everyone else was honest, is the real motivation for anyone doing the job. This is a great opportunity for personal conflict in a story. Too often in cop shows (or shows featuring the medical profession) everyone is doing the job for the same reason. That isn’t the case in life and it shouldn’t be the case in drama.

Layered onto “Why” someone is employed as a police officer (it’s a job, a career, a vocation, or a mistake) is the “Why” of the individual’s Character Type. Looking down on nine different police officers toiling away long into the night it might be easy or convenient to believe they are all working hard for the same internal motivation or with the same value system and world view in mind. But every one of the Nine Character Types sees the world very differently, believes very different things about how the world works, and sees the primary role of a cop from a unique perspective.

1. Power of Conscience cops believe policing is an important duty and carries with it the responsibility of making the world a better place. Doing the right thing is crucial to these kinds of cops. Their struggle is what is the higher duty or the most right—law or justice. (These two principles are not the same thing). Hill Street Blues‘ Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel) is this kind of character. Howard Hunter (James B. Sikking) is the comic version on the same show. Homicide’s Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor) is also a Power of Conscience character. Rylan Givens (Timothy Oliphant) in Justified is a more recent example. Although not a cop show, the sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in The Walking Dead, was a Power of Conscience law enforcement officer.

2. Power of Will cops believe policing is a matter of strength and the ability to dominate the situation. The use of power is crucial to these kinds of cops. Their struggle is what actually constitutes strength or power— excess or restraint. (Does compassion and tolerance make you stronger or weaker?) NYPD Blue’s Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) is this kind of character. A more recent example is Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) on The Shield.  In The Walking Dead, Shane Walsh (Jon” Bernthal) is a Power of Will law enforcement officer.

3. Power of Ambition cops believe policing is a matter of winning or losing. Appealing to other’s self-interest is the way to get things done. Their struggle is with short cuts vs. the long hard patient slog—results or process. (If no one else plays by the rules why should they?) Hill Street Blues‘ John “JD” LaRue (Kiel Martin) is a Power of Ambition character. A more recent example is Lieutenant Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) on The Wire.  Shane Vendrell (Walton Goggins) is another example of this kind of cop in The Shield.

4. Power of Love cops believe policing is caring for others and helping them succeed. Compassion and understanding is crucial to how they get the job done. Their struggle is when to employ “tough love” or just give up on someone. (When does empathy or understanding simply enable bad or destructive behavior?) NYPD Blue’s Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits) is this kind of character. Another example is Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) on Hill Street Blues. Woody Harrelson as Detective Marty Hart in True Detective is a Power of Love cop.

5. Power of Idealism cops believe policing is a matter of individual style and personal excellence. Use of unique talents and refusing to buckle under to stupid bureaucrats is crucial to their method of policing. Their struggle is how to maintain their individuality and still be part of a larger organization. (When does being a maverick or a rebel cause more harm than good?) Homicide’s Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) illustrates the Power of Idealism character as a cop.  Another example is Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) on The Wire.

6. Power of Reason cops believe policing is a matter of keeping personal self-control and maintaining the social order. Objectivity, expertise and a depth of knowledge are crucial to getting the job done. Their struggle is to connect with their own emotions. Dexter’s title character (Michael C. Hall) is one of the best recent examples of this kind of character on the police force. Monk’s title character (Tony Shalhoub) is the comedic example. Sofia Helin as Saga Norén in the Swedish series The Bridge is another great example of this kind of cop.

7. Power of Truth cops believe policing is a matter of uncovering secret agendas and avoiding hidden pitfalls. Establishing trust, knowing who your friends are, and being attuned to conspiracies are crucial to getting the job done. Their struggle is to accept the ambiguity of the job and the possibility of never finding real certainty. (Is the “truth” a moving target or something fixed and certain?) Homicide’s conspiracy obsessed Steve Crosetti (Jon Polito) is this kind of character. Hill Street Blues’ loyal to the core Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) is another example.  Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) on the UK version of Wallendar is a Power of Truth detective so is Matthew McConaughey as Detective Rusty Cohle in True Detective.

8. Power of Imagination cops believe policing is a matter of listening to your instincts, following hunches, or special intuitive clues. Often access to what others cannot see or hear or a quirky special kind of insight is crucial to doing their job. Their struggle is how to interpret their unusual intuition or how best to communicate it to others. (Do they take me seriously or do they think I’m crazy?) This kind of cop is rare on television. Hill Street Blues’ Michael (Mick) Belker (Bruce Weitz) is an uncouth ruffian version of the Power of Imagination character.  Another example is police consultant Allison DuBois (Patricia Arquette) in Medium.

9. Power of Excitement cops believe policing is an adventure and a thrill ride. Their charm, good-humor and ability to get themselves in and out of traps is crucial to how they do their job. Their struggle is in following orthodox rules when it is so much more interesting to play fast and loose, improvise, and shoot from the hip. (Are we having fun yet?) Beverly Hills Cop’s Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is the quintessential example of this character.

The “Why” of policing combined with Character Type creates a variety of complex and interesting individuals. It would be possible, for example, to create four very different Power of Conscience characters depending on whether they view policing as a job, as a career, as a vocation or as a mistake.

Their values and their world views would not change but their attitudes would clash. For example: How these characters define their “higher duty” or what is the “most right” is hugely influenced by the reason they are on the job. Those different perspectives provide enormous potential conflict. Here is the breakdown:

1. A Power of Conscience cop who sees policing as a job would probably believe the higher duty is owed to family. This cop would follow the rules, be conscientious, but not take the job home.

2. A Power of Conscience cop who sees policing as a career would probably believe the higher duty is owed to the organization or society. The higher the cop rises, the more effective the position becomes to do good and improve the larger situation. This cop would be relentless in seeking opportunities to advance a larger moral agenda.  And the issue of “how much bad am I willing to do in service to a good cause” would be a recurring personal theme.

3. A Power of Conscience cop who sees policing as a vocation probably believes the higher duty is owed to the victims of crime. This cop’s passion would be justice for the victims and punishment for the criminals. His or her personal life would be consumed by this life mission.

4. A Power of Conscience cop who see policing as a mistake would probably believe the higher duty is owed to one’s self. Policing can be a dirty murky business where there often is no right answer and true justice is hard to find. This lack of clear-cut black and white or right and wrong would probably be an unbearable burden on this individual– giving rise to external moral outrage and internal guilt or self-loathing. How can I be good or worthy in a cesspool?

Creating an ensemble which clearly addresses “Why” the cop is on the job combined with Character Type provides an endless source of internal and external conflict. Making use of the full variety of human experience in specific combination creates memorable partnerships, unforgettable enemies, and extraordinary individual characters.

Coming of Age and The Power of Idealism

A British producer recently asked me why Billy Elliot and Bend It Like Beckham were such a hit with International audiences.

Both films use the Power of Idealism to fuel the conflicts at the core of their stories. These films, at their heart, are about the battle between:

■ Individual vs. Society: Each protagonist struggles with his or her individual identity vs. the “proper” role or position within the family and the larger community. These protagonists march to very different drummers than the rest of the society portrayed in the film.

■ Desire vs. Duty: Each protagonist wrestles with talent/passion and social responsibilities as a son or daughter of the family and a member of the story community. These protagonists are caught between what they love and whom they love.

■ Rebellion vs. Conformity: Each protagonist breaks barriers, by dancing/playing football, to rebel against the restrictions of the family or society. This very physical rebellion and release is the source of much of the fun in both movies. In contrast, each protagonist has a sibling who is much more willing to conform and who is implicitly or explicitly held out as a role model.

■ Longing vs. Contentment: Each protagonist desperately wants something outside of or beyond that which is offered in the confines of family and home. While others in the community are content to stay within established social boundaries, the protagonist dreams of being or doing something more unique.

These kinds of films are particularly powerful because of the underlying feeling of loss through-out. Loss is one of the emotions that resonates most deeply with audiences. The audience knows that the price of all new beginnings is the end of something else. Coming of Age or Power of Idealism films incorporate loss in several key respects:

■ The price of growing up is the sacrifice of a child-like innocence. Over the course of the story each protagonist sees his or her parents (or other beloved authority figure) as they are— human beings with frustration, failures, and feet of clay and not as the all powerful gods of childhood.

■ The price of rebellion is loss of favor and acceptance by family and society. Rebels, by definition, anger and alienate those against whom they rebel. These protagonists are threatened with severe punishment, rejection and/or ridicule if they don’t conform. The protagonist persists in spite of the high potential cost.

■ The price of leaving is a loss of communal belonging. Once the protagonist fully asserts his or her individual identity and follows a unique passion or talent there is no going back. Although the family or community might eventually embrace or even celebrate the protagonist and his or her accomplishments; the protagonist has moved beyond and transcended the community. It is clear in the narrative that the protagonist will continue to move further and further from “home” to follow his or her dreams.

These emotional elements play out in a clear distinct cycle in each film. Although they are worlds apart externally, each protagonist has a similar psychological profile internally and undergoes a parallel emotional journey over the course of the films. This story cycle is the same in all Coming of Age or Power of Idealism films.

Such strong underlying patterns resonate very powerfully with audiences. When presented in a clearly focused narrative the audience responds deeply and eagerly desires to share the experience with others. This clarity, power and emotional response makes films like Billy Elliot and Bend It Like Beckham resounding international hits (regardless of culture, race or milieu in which the story is set).

#TypesTuesday – Archetype or Character Type? Wizards in Harry Potter

dumbledore-etbscreenwritingI was having a conversation with a friend the other day about archetypes. I must admit, I am not a fan. To me an archetype is a job description: a wizard, trickster, mother, hero, outlaw, seductress, judge, or mystic simply do different kinds of work in a story.

Let’s take the first job on the list, wizard. The Harry Potter book and film series features many different wizards. Each has his or her own individual kind of wizardry and distinctive personality.

That’s the problem with archetypes. There is no one way to be a wizard. There are lots of different ways to play that role in a story. Different wizards view their role or job differently, believe different things about the world, and frame their responsibilities very differently. In a story, a character’s job or role is much less important than how the person sees the world, understands that role, and fulfills his or her duties.

That’s where Character Type comes in. Character Type determines how a person views the world, sees his or her place in it, and develops a philosophy of life and love, Character Type creates innate strengths and weaknesses and determines the lessons to be learn over the arc of the story. Different Character Types are concerned about very different aspects of their role or job. For example:

A Power of Will wizard is most concerned with using his or her abilities for vengeance or to expand and defend a personal domain or to bend others or the elements into submission.  Lord Voldemort is a great example.  “There is no good and evil, there is only power…and those too weak to seek it.”

A Power of Conscience wizard is most concerned with the justice and ethics of magic and how it is most rightly or properly used.  They do not break rules or tolerate misbehavior.  Minerva McGonagall is a great example:    ‘Now, I must warn you that the most stringent anti-cheating charms have been applied to your examination papers. Auto-Answer Quills are banned from the examination hall, as are Remembralls, Detachable Cribbing Cuffs and Self-Correcting Ink. Every year, I am afraid to say, seems to harbour at least one student who thinks that he or she can get around the Wizarding Examinations Authority’s rules. I can only hope that it is nobody in Gryffindor.”

A Power of Ambition wizard is most concerned with the flash, dazzle and showy presentation required to be impressive, gain prestige, status, being popular, or acquiring a grand reputation.  Draco Malfoy is a great example:  “My father told me all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford… You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.”

A Power of Truth wizard is most concerned with divining oracles and prophesies or delving into deep dark hidden secrets.  They are secret keepers and it’s hard to know where their real loyalties lie.  Severus Snape is a great example:  “What made you think he’d really stopped supporting Voldemort, Professor?”  Dumbledore held Harry’s gaze for a few seconds, and then said, “That, Harry, is a matter between Professor Snape and myself.” Snape has the most surprising reveal in the story, which changes our whole view of him at the end.

A Power of Reason wizard is most concerned with the magical formulas or precise processes that lead to specific knowledge or expertise.  Hermione Granger is a great example:  “That’s what Hermione does. When in doubt, go to the library.” She is a little off-putting and can be very condescending but she is one of the smartest and best informed young wizards in the group.

A Power of Excitement wizard is most concerned with adventurous exploring, wild experimenting or creating the chaos that makes magic fun and surprising.  They hate being bored or trapped. Sirius Black is a great exmple:  “Personally, I’d have welcomed a dementor attack. A deadly struggle for my soul would have broken the monotony nicely. You think you’ve had it bad, at least you’ve been able to get out and about, stretch your legs, get into a few fights…. I’ve been stuck inside for a month.”

A Power of Love wizard is most concerned with relationship magic, bonding spells, and creating mutual alliances.  These Character Types are stalwart friends and are self -sacrificing for others.  Harry’s best friend Ron is a good example:  “We’re nearly there,” Ron muttered suddenly. “Let me think — let me think…” The white queen turned her blank face toward him. “Yes…” said Ron softly, “it’s the only way … I’ve got to be taken.” “NO!” Harry and Hermione shouted.”That’s chess!” snapped Ron. “You’ve got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and she’ll take me — that leaves you free to checkmate the king, Harry!”

A Power of Idealism wizard is most concerned with creating magic that is completely unique, entirely special, and is a reflection of his or her deepest passions.  These are the truly exceptional wizards, those who are the legends.  Dumbledore is a good example:  “Professor Dumbledore, though very old, always gave an impression of great energy. He had several feet of long silver hair and beard, half-moon spectacles, and an extremely crooked nose. He was often described as the greatest wizard of the age.”  Harry Potter is also such a legendary wizard, specially marked, and charged with a unique and extraordinary destiny.

A Power of Imagination wizard is eccentric, slightly dreamy and live in a world of their own.  Although unassuming, these Character Types have enormous heart and bravery.  These kinds of wizards can see and hear things others don’t or simply miss.  Luna Lovegood is a great example:  “Oh, yes,” said Luna, “I’ve been able to see them (winged horses) ever since my first day here. They’ve always pulled the carriages. Don’t worry. You’re just as sane as I am.”

Each type of wizard looks at the role of magic through very different personal lens of Character Type. Resorting to an archetypal “wizard” too often leads to stereotypical behavior that is cliched. There is no one way to be a wizard just as there is no one way to be a cop, a nurse, a priest, a mother, or a fool. Each Character Type makes the role, the job, the archetype entirely his or her own.

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Power and The Game of Thrones

Soap Operas were the first television broadcast formats to use non-linear narratives. These programs have always featured interrupted story lines, shifting character focus and point of view in various episodes (and a large cast with whose characters regularly drop in and out of particular story lines), as well as alternating story arcs which advance separate but related story lines, or different characters that deal with different aspects of the same plot. There is frequent use of flashbacks, dream sequences, and other disjointed uses of time.

Popular and critically acclaimed Prime Time programs that are perceived as innovative and highly original use a combination of many of the same storytelling techniques. Why do shows such as The Game of Thrones feel fresh, inventive, and avant-garde to television audiences while Soap Operas often feel tired, old fashioned, and provincial? The answer can be found in two words– Great Characters.

If you look at the structure of The Game of Thrones it is about 80% eating or drinking and talking, walking and talking, having sex and talking, or riding and talking.  A few spectacular set pieces or violent action sequences do punctuate all of the talking but the show is primarily about relationships and power, relationships and love, or relationships and trust or betrayal.  This kind of relationship drama is the foundation of a soap.

The Game of Throne brings its relationships to life with complex characters that have a specific point of view and whose actions are always consistent with their particular way of looking at the world, their role in the world, and their philosophy of life, love, and power.

Let’s take a look at the main Game of Thrones characters in relationship to how they understand power and its use.

The first major character introduced in the series is Eddard “Ned” Stark. He is the lord of the Wintefell and head of the House Stark. He is a Power of Conscience character.

These characters know instinctively if something is wrong, unfair, or improper. They have a keen sense of justice and feel responsible for doing the greater good. In Ned’s own words: “The law is the law.” “You think my life is such a precious thing to me, that I would trade my honor for a few more years …of what?”  These characters look at power as their sworn duty to do right and take responsibility. Ned is tested by an offer to save his children by confessing to a treason he did not commit.  He believes his higher duty is to his family rather than his word.  He is beheaded any way and his children hunted down or dangerously trapped.

Catelyn Tully is the wife of Ned Stark and Lady of Winterfell. She is fiercely protective of her family. Catelyn always follows her heart rather than her head where family matters are concerned. She is  jealous of Ned’s bastard son, Jon Snow. She resents that her husband brought the boy into HER family.

Later in the story, Catelyn is consumed with avenging the deaths in the House of Stark. She is a formidable adversary and, like most Power of Love characters, wields an iron fist in a velvet glove. She finds her power in protecting and pushing her family forward.

Robb Stark is the eldest child of Lady Catelyn and Lord Eddard Stark. He is declared King in the North by his bannermen and family allies after his father’s execution.  He is leading forces in a rebellion to break the North from the control of the Iron Throne.

Robb is a Power of Idealism character.  He is a warrior/savant called “The Young Wolf” and instinctively knows how to strategize and win battles.  Like Jaime Lannister, another Power of Idealism character, Robb is an extraordinary warrior and believes the rules don’t apply to him.  And like Jaime, Robb is in love with someone forbidden to him.  He is a doomed romantic who secretly weds a woman who will cost him his life and his war. His power is his ability to inspire others and in his extraordinary fighting abilities.

Jon Snow is Ned Stark’s second son.  He was born of an undisclosed romantic liaison.  He, like his father, is a Power of Conscience character.  Jon feels unworthy as Ned’s bastard son and joins the Rangers to find a good and moral purpose for his life.  But, like all Power of Conscience characters, the issue soon becomes what is the higher duty or most important moral purpose?  Does he try to help and save his brother, Robb, and the Stark family?  Or does he remain true to the vows he took as a Ranger to protect only the Wall and hence the entire realm.  Jon finds power in being a good and righteous man, he often doesn’t know what such a man looks like in the dark and complicated world he faces.

Sansa Stark is the elder daughter of Catelyn and Eddard Stark. She is raised as a true high-born lady with all the traditional feminine charms and graces. Sansa is also a Power of Love character. She is a young romantic and lives for day she will marry her handsome prince and have his children.

When her Prince Joffery turns out to be a cruel little sadist she, like most Power of Love characters, believes if she loves him long enough and well enough he will have to love her back. These characters often see their own value reflected in the eyes of another.  Sansa sees her power as a dance of romance and courtly love.  But she too, over the course of the series, reveals the strength of steel inside her velvet glove.

Arya Stark is the third child and second Stark daughter. She is a rebellious, high-spirited girl who doesn’t fit in with the other young ladies of the court. She wants to excel as a swordsman and fighter.

Arya is a Power of Idealism Character. These characters want to find their special place in the word, be extraordinary, and be called to some great destiny (often as a warrior). They reject the demands of  traditional authority to maintain and protect their own individuality and personal freedom. Arya seeks the power of having the ability to be fully and truly herself.

Brandon is the fourth child and third  Stark son. He is a Power of Imagination character.

These characters can see, hear, or “feel” things others cannot. Bran has a mystical connection with his direwolf, has prophetic dreams, and has a growing access to the “old magic” as the story goes on.

He is seemingly small, insignificant, and a cripple due to a fall. But he has great inner powers yet to be revealed.  Brandon’s only access to power as a connection to the mystical, magical, and the divine.  “You can’t kill it you know, the raven is you.”

Robert Baratheon is the (late) King of Westeros. He took the Iron Throne in a war known as Robert’s Rebellion. He is a Power of Will character.

Tywin Lannister, another Power of Will character, lusts for domination and control, but King Robert lusts for wine, women, hunting, and eating.

He is a Power of Will character in the tradition of Falstaff. Robert is volatile, dangerous and is entirely ruled by his appetites.  Power to Robert is living large and lustily and answering to no one.

Cersei Lannister is the wife and later widow of King Robert. Cersei is the only daughter of Lord Tywin Lannister.  The House of Lannister is one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Westeros.

Cersei is another Power of Love character.  She exercises power through her son, Joffery.  Although she know how dark and cruel his heart is she still loves him as fiercely as a mother lion.

“Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon.”  “Everyone who isn’t us is an enemy.”  She finds her power behind her son’s throne.

Ser Jaime Lannister is a knight of the Kingsguard, a position he has held for twenty years since he was made the youngest Kingsguard ever. He is the eldest son of Tywin Lannister and is his sister’s incestuous lover.

He a Power of Idealism character and is acknowledged as one of the best warriors in the land.  Jamie is unique and extraordinary. He makes his own rules and follows his own peculiar code of honor.  His power is in his extraordinary and unique abilities.  “There are no men like me. Only me.”

Tywin Lannister is Lord of Casterly Rock, Shield of Lannisport, and Warden of the West. He is one of the most powerful lords in Westeros and father of Jaime, Cersei, and Tyrion Lannister.

He is a Power of Will character. These characters take what they want, fight for every inch of turf, refuse to show any weakness themselves, pounce decisively on the weakness of others, and swiftly avenge any wrong (or perceived wrong). “Do you think I’d be where I am if I had lost a battle?” These characters show no mercy and expect none.  His power is in his strength and ruthlessness.

Tyrion Lannister, is the third and youngest child of powerful Lord Tywin. Tyrion is a dwarf, and is sometimes mockingly called The Imp or The Halfman. He is a Power of Truth character.

Unlike Varys who is a sly secret-keeper, Tyrion is a bold skeptic and cynical truth-teller. He often says what others are too afraid, too embarrassed, or too timid to say.

The major theme in his story going forward is betrayal or seeming betrayal by nearly everyone. Power is an illusive thing for Tyrion, it resides in loyalty and trust.  Both are so rare in Westeros as to be almost nonexistent.  He survives by his keen wit, cynical nature, and his powers of perception.

Varys is a eunuch, a secret keeper, and the Master of Whisperers (the head of the royal Spy Network). He is an advisor on the king’s small council.

Varys is a Power of Truth character. These characters believe the world is filled with hidden dangers, illusive enemies and concealed pitfalls. His philosophy might be stated: “Things are never what they seem.” “Trust no one.” “Watch out for secret agendas and hidden pitfalls.”  He believes power is “a trick, a shadow on the wall”.  Power is perception.  “It resides where people believe it resides”.

I liked what the AV Club has said about the series– “Each storyline is separated into roughly equal-sized chunks, then split between episodes. Every week, viewers drop in on one of those storylines for a few minutes, hopefully departing enticed to come back the next week by a cliffhanger (or two). Some episodes focus more heavily on certain characters, but each hour goes out of its way to drop in on as many characters as possible, just to keep the audience aware of what’s going on. As in soaps, this creates stories that don’t so much build as exist in an eternal present. The show has climaxes and traditional stories, but it seems to constantly be moving forward. There’s always something else coming, and the series has to maintain the illusion that whatever finality there is offers more of a comma than a period.”

I would add that the gaining or losing of power and how power is best used are the underlying theme that tie all the far-flung action of the show together.  This theme provides a sense of continuity to what’s going on in every part of the world and across all the battle fronts (foreign and domestic) on which the war is being fought.  Power is what binds the characters to the story and also binds the disparate action of the episodes together.