#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!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

#TypesTuesday – Batman v Sherlock: Comparing Reason and Truth

Types Tuesday

Batman and Sherlock Holmes are both detectives of sorts but they approach their investigation into crime very differently. Batman is a Power of Truth character.  Holmes is a Power of Reason character. This makes all the difference in how their stories are told.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (my favorite Batman movies) is remarkably consistent in its emotional and psychological characterizations. In the Emotional Toolbox method, rather than looking at genre, the essential emotional force driving the movie is analyzed. Nolan’s trilogy is a series of complex multi-layered Power of Truth stories.

These kinds of stories are driven by secrets, lies, conspiracies, or concealment. In the opening of The Dark Knight Rises, a huge lie is rotting at the heart of Gotham City.

Bruce Wayne/Batman languishes in disgrace, broken and hiding in his cavernous mansion. Harvey Dent, who had become the criminally insane Two Face in the previous film, The Dark Knight, has been put on a pedestal and is revered as a hero. His crimes are concealed and even blamed on Batman.

The Dark Knight Rises and all Power of Truth stories chronicle the most profound and personal betrayals. These stories also ask: when does betrayal look like loyalty and when does loyalty look like betrayal? These stories’ twists, turns, treachery, and reversals, changes everything the character believes is true. All the character holds dear is destroyed.  It is a story of emotional devastation.

One of the major betrayals at the heart of the film is Alfred Pennyworth’s omission in telling Bruce Wayne what happened just before Bruce’s great love, Rachel Dawes, died. Alfred argues against Bruce re-emerging as Batman, revealing the truth about Rachel.

Bruce argues that Rachel died believing that the two of them would be together; that was his life beyond the cape. He can’t just move on because she couldn’t move on– she died.

Alfred reluctantly tells Wayne the truth, “What if she had? What if, before she died, she wrote a letter saying she chose Harvey Dent over you? And what if, to spare your pain, I burnt that letter?”

Bruce accuses Alfred of just using Rachel to try to stop him. Alfred is adamant. “I am using the truth, Master Wayne. Maybe it’s time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day. I’m sorry.”

In Power of Truth stories, like Nolan’s Batman trilogy, things are never what they seem.  The tangled undergrowth of human duplicity and emotional treachery catches and pulls at every character in the film.

Power of Reason stories are much more straight forward.  The investigation is a puzzle to be solved logically, emotion doesn’t enter into it. Of course, there is deception in these stories, but the lies are exposed by the careful collection of empirical evidence and objective deduction.

Sherlock says:  “Impossible suicides? Four of them? There’s no point sitting at home when there’s finally something fun going on!

Mrs. Hudson: “Look at you, all happy. It’s not decent.”

Sherlock: “Who cares about decent? The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!”

Power of Reason characters examine the situation, consult other expert opinions or past experiences, and put their minds to the issue in a thorough and objective fashion.  It’s all a puzzle to be solved or a game to win. The human cost of murder or suicide doesn’t factor into the equation.

These characters cannot abide deviation from their systematic and orderly approach to the world. They tend to discount or ignore emotional or spiritual (or supernatural) elements in a situation or a problem. If they can’t see it, measure it, categorize it or quantify it, they don’t believe in it.

Power of Reason characters don’t believe in getting personally involved or emotionally entangled in any issue. They always try to maintain a sense of cool detachment and personal objectivity. They are good listeners but deflect or avoid any intimate questions about themselves and are extremely private about disclosing anything they consider to be personal. They are excellent problem-solvers and experts on matters technical, scientific or arcane.

Moving from a cold clinical analysis toward a more human evaluation (which takes into consideration emotional connection, caring, and a real valuing of others’ feelings) is their journey toward greatness.

SaveSave

SaveSave

Detectives and The Power of Truth

the-suspicions-of-mr-whicher-9781445877310-lgI love picking up books for a one pound coin in Bristol charity shops.  I read books that normally would never come my way.  One such book: The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House was particularly fascinating.

Here’s what I learned about the origin of fictional and real life detectives and detective stories:

A Detective was a recent invention (in the 1840’s).  The first fictional sleuth, Ausguste Dupin, appeared in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1841, and the first real detectives in the English-speaking world were appointed by the London Metropolitan Police the next year. The officer who investigated the murder at Road Hill House – Detective-Inspector Jonathan Whicher of Scotland Yard – was one of the eight men who formed this fledging force.

The Road Hill case riveted all of England. It was a classic “country house” murder.  Someone viciously killed a small child, took him from his bed, and stuffed the body down the privy (outhouse).  Logistically, only someone inside the house could have committed the crime.  No one else had the access to the necessary locations.  The (very public) unfolding of the investigation shaped the detective fiction of the era and beyond. Whicher’s personality inspired the first English detective novel, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone and its police inspector Sergeant Cuff.  Cuff has inspired nearly every detective in fiction since.

The Emotional Toolbox categorizes the stories we normally think of as detective stories as Power of Truth stories.

These stories are defined by the secrets, lies, conspiracies, and truths that are hidden or concealed from or by the characters. Power of Truth stories explore the most profound and personal of betrayals.

In The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher there are secrets, lies, and layers of betrayal at the heart of the Victorian home, a place considered irreproachable and sacred at the time of the murder. The case tore the roof off what was a deeply private place.  It exposed rot and malice in place of what was assumed to wholesome and pure.

Power of Truth stories feature twists, treachery, and reversals, each of which can suddenly change everything the character believes is true. They conceal and reveal larger underlying issues or covert agendas that secretly manipulate the characters or the story world itself.

The cruelty, hatred, and abuse seething beneath the violent explosion in the Road Hill Murder case revealed the twisted dark side in seeming respectable middle class Victorian family life.  This was a shock to the public and to Whicher himself.

Power of Truth stories are complex tales that usually deal with darker side of human emotion. Plotting is key to triggering the detective’s fear and loathing and  maintaining it at full force through the story.

The Power of Truth story world is rich and multi-layered. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. The protagonist can’t fully trust anyone. In some cases, the protagonist can’t even trust him or her self! The case broke Whicher professionally, personally, and emotionally.

A Power of Truth story is fundamentally about how others deceive a character and how that character deceives him or her self. Plot development typically investigates or uncovers the truth about one thing and, as a result, uncovers the truth about larger secrets, crimes, or conspiracies lurking below the surface.

Ultimately, these stories explore the essential nature of truth and whether it is ever possible to fully know or understand the complex mysteries of the human heart— our own or anyone else’s.

Power of Truth novels and films are rich, complex stories filled with profound questions about the nature of illusion vs. reality; guilt, innocence and culpability; the elusive boundaries of loyalty and betrayal; the corrosiveness of secrets and lies; and, certainty vs. the unknowability of some things.

These stories slowly un-peel multi-layered deceptions, forbidden truths, and deep self-delusion, exposing the most agonizing and dangerous human emotions.

For more information on creating these rich complex stories see:  The Power of Truth eBook

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.

#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.

SaveSave

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.

Vintage Cop Shows – Why Is The Cop On The Job?

Andy-Sipowicz-etbscreenwriting

I recently had a question from a reader about how different Character Types do the same job OR how the same Character Types might do a job differently.  This previous post answers both questions.  I love questions from readers.  Be sure to submit yours.

Three cop shows changed forever how police work is depicted on television. Each show was original and iconic in its own time. Each remains an example of emotional storytelling at peak intensity and engagement. Let’s look at Hill Street Blues, Homicide: Life on the Street and NYPD Blue and the lessons that can be drawn going forward.

Hill Street Blues redefined the cop/crime genre through intertwined partnerships that combined police officers’ stressful work lives with the conflicts in their private lives. Very few investigations or interrogations were ever featured on the show. Instead, each episode charted a “day in the life” of the precinct from the early-morning roll call to a late-night rehash of the day’s events. This recap was usually in the bedroom with lovers Captain Furillo and Public Defender Joyce Davenport. Hill Street Blues focused almost exclusively on the interpersonal relationships between the core cast members. The show also introduced a more “documentary” look and feel to the genre. Real-life personal issues and situations were explored in a raw and more explicit manner than previously depicted on earlier shows such as Columbo or Kojak. Real-life street slang was used throughout the program.

Homicide: Life on the Street exploded television racial stereotypes with multi-dimensional complex depictions of African Americans. The show was set in Baltimore, a predominately black American city. The storylines managed to cross racial barriers that were previously taboo on television. Homicide also broke many of television’s editing and narrative continuity rules. Jump cuts were numerous and unpredictable shifts in the narrative marked it as one of the most unconventional programs at that point in the genre. With a sharp unflinching honesty about race, prejudice and violence, the detective’s job is depicted as repetitive and emotionally draining. The show examined the enormous toll that policing took on individuals and on partnerships.

NYPD Blue was set against the backdrop of urban decay in New York City. Career cops were depicted as complicated, complex and often deeply flawed human beings. Although the show featured risky adult material, most of the stories were about families and the terrible emotional aftermath of violence. Less attention was paid to the crimes than how the crimes affected the relationships in the core cast. NYPD Blue was really about one man’s journey toward redemption. Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) began the show as a drunken abusive racist cop who is about to be thrown off the force (for good reason). Seventeen years later, he’s earned the top position in the precinct and, although still Andy, is fit to lead.

Each of these classic cop shows focused on the “Why” of the human cop story rather than the “How” of the crime story. That’s what made them successful. And that’s what separates these shows from the current generation of procedural cop shows like Law & Order (and all its varieties). But even in the Dick Wolf Law & Order universe, “Why” each person does the job is based on the individual’s very clear Character Type. For example: Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), over many years on the show, still wrestles with the same questions of ethical principle vs. political expediency and law vs. justice. His “Why” is clearly driven by the Power of Conscience.

In a one-hour drama it is only possible to do one thing well– procedure or personal relationships. There isn’t time to do both well. There currently is lots of procedure on television. Perhaps it’s time for the pendulum to swing back to emotional personal relationships in cop shows.

Clear true emotions travel. They connect with the audience and move them week after week to watch a show. The definition of “to be entertained” is to feel something. In the classic cop shows discussed above, 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 story feel by-the-numbers and hollow.

The “Why” provides the 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 the mechanics of “How” to put the cops through their paces— Instead of being specific about “Why” one particular individual is a cop.

There are four basic categories of “Why” anyone becomes a cop (or anything else for that matter):

1. It’s a job. Being a cop is solid union employment and a way to make a living or 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 idea 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 “Why” anyone works at the Station House or Precinct. This is a great opportunity for personal conflict in a story. Too often in cop shows (or shows featuring any 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 your 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. 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 a duty and a responsibility to make 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) is a more recent example.

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.

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.

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.

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.  A more 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. (When is objectivity actually alienation?) 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.

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 more recent example.

8. Power of Imagination cops believe policing is a matter of listening to your instincts, following hunches and 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.  A more recent 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 and 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.

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 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.

The Power of Truth Book – New for 2012 – Excerpt

My upcoming trade paperback, The Power of Truth: Creating Characters Who are Detectives, Secret Keepers, Skeptics, and More is in final galley form.  The book discusses at length what a Power of Truth Story is and what the emotional parameters of Power of Truth character are.

In brief:

Power of Truth characters believe the world is filled with hidden dangers, secretive enemies and concealed pitfalls. This character’s philosophy might be stated: “Everyone is hiding something.” “Trust no one.” “Question everything.” The story keeps these characters off balance, doubting those around them, and uncertain about their own perceptions.

A character driven by the Power of Truth is often the protagonist in mystery stories, mistaken or hijacked identity stories, investigative stories and detective stories. In an ensemble cast, these characters are frequently secret keepers, strategists, counselors or advisers. In whatever role they play, they look beneath the surface of things to discover what lies below or is somehow hidden from view. They believe that nothing is ever what it seems.

Many other different kinds of films and novels deal with investigation, crime, conspiracy, and deception. Not all of them are Power of Truth stories. The key is to determine what the mystery, the chase, the crime, or the investigation reveals about the main character:  What is actually at the root of the illegal act, the murder, the conspiracy, the unusual phenomena, or the disturbing occurrence?

What does the solution — and how that solution is obtained — reveal about the protagonist’s view of the world, about his or her presumed place in the world or self-identified role, or about the character’s philosophy of life and love?

How is the protagonist’s essential human struggle portrayed over the course of the story? What does the story tells us about what that character values most highly?

The answers to these questions determine what kind of story it is and what kind of protagonist pursues this line of inquiry.  Understanding and using story specifics and clearly delineating your character creates the kind of compelling story that  are emotionally authentic and which “feel real” to audiences.

POWER OF CONSCIENCE STORIES

Erin Brockovich, To Kill a Mockingbird, Silkwood and The Insider all involve some kind of criminal conspiracy. In these stories a crime is committed or evidence is falsified or covered-up. The protagonist wants to expose these crimes and stop the wrongdoers. There is duplicity and deceit in each of these stories.  But these stories are not Power of Truth stories. They explore the Power of Conscience.

Power of Conscience characters instinctively know when something is wrong, unjust, unfair, improper, corrupt, or morally out of line. Their judgment and response is swift and immutable. They are propelled forward by personal outrage and moral indignation, usually on another’s behalf.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Conscience character is to become morally bankrupt or become a failure in his or her own eyes (i.e. not living up to his or her own high standards).

In Erin Brockovich, To Kill a Mockingbird, Silkwood and The Insider the protagonist is clear about what happened (or is happening), what is morally right or wrong, and who is to blame. The story struggle, then, is primarily about what to do to right the wrong.

All of these stories revolve around the question: “If I am my brother’s keeper how far must I go on his behalf?”

The Power of Conscience character’s answer to the above question is usually: “All the way.”

Once the character has decided to right the wrong, the question becomes how to prevail. This character’s pursuit of justice costs him or her dearly. This character often damages, gives up, or loses his or her job, family, or other important relationships.  He or she often suffers staggering personal or financial losses during the story journey.

Power of Conscience stories are primarily about law vs. justice; answering the call to one’s higher duty; standing up for one’s moral code; and, taking responsibility for or sacrificing for another’s welfare.  These are very different issues from those at the core of Power of Truth stories.

POWER OF AMBITION STORIES

The Devil’s Advocate, Wall Street, Catch Me If You Can and The Talented Mr. Ripley all involve crimes and cover-ups to a greater or lesser degree. An element of active deception is involved in all four stories. But, again, these stories are not Power of Truth stories. In the ETB method they are defined as novels or films that are driven by the Power of Ambition.

A character driven by the Power of Ambition can be a hardworking, eager, charming optimist with a “can-do” spirit– or a lying, manipulative, deceitful backstabbing striver who will do anything to get ahead in life.

These kinds of protagonists can be aspirational characters who want to rise from a lowly station to a more exalted one. Or they can be whores (real or metaphoric), frauds, fakers, or con artists, always on the hustle and one step ahead of the law. In any case, maintaining their status, popularity, illusion of success, or perceived social importance is key.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Ambition character is failing in the eyes of others or failing in the eyes of the world.

In The Devil’s Advocate, Wall Street, Catch Me If You Can and The Talented Mr. Ripley, the protagonist knows that what he or others are doing is wrong or illegal. Each protagonist proceeds anyway, in order to achieve or maintain the image of wealth, prestige, status, or position he so desperately craves.

All of these stories are primarily about how much a protagonist is willing to compromise morally, professionally, or personally for material or social gain.

As Power of Ambition characters abandon their moral scruples one by one to obtain their goal, they are willing to lie, cheat, steal, or even commit murder to get ahead. They are acutely aware of others’ opinions and are willing to use any kind of fraud, trick, or deception to maintain the illusion of their social standing or external success.

In the end, when these characters have nearly lost everything that matters on a human scale, they often reform their ways and “do the right thing.”  If the story is a tragedy, they continue in their illegal or illicit ways until they and everything that matters to them is hollowed out, corrupted, or destroyed.

POWER OF WILL STORIES

The Godfather Trilogy, Scarface, The Last Seduction and The Sopranos all involve criminal activity, the suppression of evidence, and the murder of anyone who interferes. But not one of these are Power of Truth stories.  In the ETB method, these are stories are propelled by the Power of Will.

Power of Will characters are strong, lusty, larger-than-life protagonists and ferocious, indomitable adversaries. They are absolutely ruthless, stop at nothing, and are willing to use extreme violence to achieve their objectives.

These characters are relentless and unyielding. They want it all. They mean to get it all and they know just how to do it.  These are big characters who fill the screen with energy, determination, and the lust for life, sex, money, or power.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Will character is to be dominated, controlled, or emasculated by others.

The protagonists in The Godfather Trilogy, Scarface, The Last Seduction and The Sopranos do whatever wrong they must do to survive, to expand territory, or to conquer or dominate others. There is little struggle with morality. Everything comes down to the law of the jungle– kill or be killed. There is no ambiguity or uncertainty. Life is a battlefield. Might makes right. Winner takes all.

Never showing any sign of weakness or vulnerability is the key to every decision this character makes and every action a Power of Will protagonist takes.

These characters insist: “I had no choice. I had to protect myself, my empire, or my family.”

They sacrifice tenderness, kindness, any sense of mercy, or forgiveness to dominate the situation, This leads inevitably to the loss of their humanity, their soul, and often their lives.

Those who live by sword tend to die by the sword. The only salvation for these characters is to connect with innocence. They must become true protectors of the weak and vulnerable rather than preying on those who are an easy target.

POWER OF REASON STORIES

The Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Professional, and In the Bedroom all involve criminal activity, murder, and cover-ups. But none of these stories are Power of Truth stories either. In the ETB method these stories revolve around the Power of Reason.

A character driven by the Power of Reason is most often the expert, a technician, scientist, or professional observer in a story. These characters are calm, cool, and efficient problem-solvers who who often experience difficulty with personal and social interactions.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Reason character is to be overwhelmed by emotion, lose his or her objectivity, or to discover that the world is not a rational place.

Power of Reason stories are driven by logical deduction. These characters believe that there is a reasonable explanation for everything and emotion is the enemy of objectivity and rationality. They believe in science and hard facts.  They don’t suffer fools and often experience some kind of profound alienation from society.

Dr. Gregory House, the medical detective and master diagnostician in the television series House, is another great example of this kind of character and story.

Dr. House investigates each medical mystery with keen powers of observation, a razor sharp intellect, and penetrating logical deductions. He is alienated from everyone and manages to alienate those around him. A patient is more of a puzzle to be solved than a human being to be nurtured and healed.

In Power of Reason stories, ambiguity and deception might be hiding the solution to the problem or the crime, but the protagonist is absolutely clear-headed, often to the point of near inhuman dispassion.

There is little personal or emotional investment in Power of Reason investigations. The problem or mystery is merely a difficult riddle to be unraveled.

Salvation for these characters lies in embracing spontaneity and admitting the strength of emotion, the power of the spirit and the spiritual, and the other intangible mysterious forces in life.

POWER OF EXCITEMENT STORIES

The early James Bond movies, the Indiana Jones movies, Cool Hand Luke, and Iron Man, all involve criminal activity, conspiracies by those intent on world domination or personal oppression, or evil destructive plots of one sort or another.

But not one of these are Power of Truth stories. In the ETB method these are Power of Excitement stories. Explosions, fast paced adrenaline rushes and last-minute escapes are hallmarks of these kinds of stories.

Power of Excitement stories are all about narrow escapes, the thrill of the chase, the next dangerous diversion, or another daring escapade. Whether risking twenty days in “the hole” or facing almost certain death by way of snakes, sharks, or an evil international cartel, main characters in Power of Excitement stories always remain witty, charming, and boyishly up-beat.

The worst thing that could happen to a Power of Excitement character is to be trapped, boxed in, cornered, limited, contained, or domesticated.

These characters are determined to remain free spirits, agents provocateur, and untamed “wild things.”

Power of Excitement characters are usually agents of chaos in rebellion against established authority. Their rakish push-the-envelop devil-may-care attitude shakes things up in a story. Their charm, ready wit, and natural talent as an escape artist or improvisor is what usually saves the day.

Deception, betrayal, and treachery are taken in stride with a smile or a smirk, an ironic comment, a snappy retort, or a careless shrug. These characters don’t seem to take anything or anyone too seriously.

In turn, they believe their charm, good humor, and amusing personality should entitle them to an infinite supply of forgiveness, unlimited “do-overs”, and countless “second chances.”

Power of Excitement stories are all about maintaining an almost adolescent refusal to be serious, grow up, or conform in any way to authority. These characters live for the thrill of getting in and out of trouble and tend not to learn very much along the way.

POWER OF LOVE STORIES

Lethal Weapon, Tango and Cash, Rush Hour, and 48 Hours all involve criminal activity, murder, drugs, and cover-ups. But they aren’t Power of Truth stories either. These tales revolve around the Power of Love .

Male-driven Power of Love stories are buddy movies. The crime, the caper, or the conspiracy is secondary to the relationship between the two partners.

In each of these stories, the partners are different as night and day. They don’t like each other but are forced to work together because of some bureaucratic mix up, a boss’ order, or some other unavoidable situation.

Over the course of the story, the partners exchange “gifts”.

Each partner brings a different talent, a different perspective, a different background, or a different attitude which proves crucial to the partnership. These differences are key to the successful outcome of the case or the resolution of the puzzle.

Neither partner can achieve the objective, solve the mystery, or apprehend the criminal, without the other’s gifts or skills.

Over the course of the story, the two partners initially develop a grudging respect. This hard-earned friendship eventually turns into the kind of loyalty which makes each character willing to take a bullet for the other.

Any two kinds of characters can come together in a Power of Love story. The purpose of the crime or case (which typically is very forgettable) brings two distinct partners together in an unforgettable relationship.

POWER OF IDEALISM STORIES

I recently watched the film adapted from the play Equus. A young man inexplicably blinds six horses at the stable where he worked as an otherwise caring stable hand. He is committed to a mental institution and an experienced psychiatrist tries to solve the mystery and heal the boy.

The story involves duplicity, self-deception, and a horrific crime. But this isn’t a Power of Truth story, either.  Equus is a Power of Idealism story in the ETB method.

A character driven by the Power of Idealism wants to stand out from the crowd, to be extraordinary, unique and special. These characters believe that life and love should involve a grand passion. They see the world in terms of sweeping epic poetry or as a struggle of operatic proportions.

Intensity of feeling– either good or bad– makes this character’s life worth living. Power of Idealism characters believe it is better to be in pain than to feel nothing at all. Being content and complacent feels like a slow death sentence to these characters.

The worst thing that could happen to Power of Idealism character is to be boring or bored, unexceptional, under-rated, mediocre, or completely ordinary.

Dr. Martin Dysart (Richard Burton), the psychiatrist in Equus, is a disillusioned Power of Idealism character. He wonders if healing the boy of his passion and madness, only to send him into a world of monotony and dull routine, is a noble thing to do.

This film is about the price of passion and whether pain is the price of being truly alive even if for only a horrifying or intensely mad moment.

Dr. Dysart says: “Passion, you see, can only be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created”.

WHO THE MAIN CHARACTER IS DETERMINES
WHAT THE STORY IS ABOUT

The key to an emotionally satisfying story is to determine what the mystery, the chase, or the investigation reveals about the character.

What is at the root of the crime, the murder, the conspiracy, the unusual phenomena, or strange occurrence?

What does the solution, and how it is obtained, say about the protagonist’s view of the world, his or her philosophy, and essential human struggle?

The plot, the investigation, or the inquiry is the way a character reveals him or her self. Character is action. The actions a character takes over the course of the story tells the audience what the character truly values and what the hear of the story is.

#TypesTuesday – The Dark Knight Rises

the_dark_knight_rises-wallpaper-1152x864Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, is a powerful portrayal of a Power of Truth character. I liked the film a lot.

Nolan’s whole Batman trilogy is remarkably consistent in its emotional and psychological characterizations. In the Emotional Toolbox method, rather than looking at genre, the essential emotional force driving the movie is analyzed. Nolan’s trilogy is a series of complex multi-layered Power of Truth stories.

These kinds of stories are driven by secrets, lies, conspiracies, or concealment. In the opening of The Dark Knight Rises a huge lie is rotting at the heart of Gotham City.

Bruce Wayne/Batman languishes in disgrace, broken and hiding in his cavernous mansion. Harvey Dent, who had become the criminally insane Two Face in the previous film, The Dark Knight, has been put on a pedestal and is revered as a hero. His crimes are concealed and even blamed on Batman.

When the terrorist villian Bane takes over Gotham he exposes the lie. Bane says: “Behind you stands a symbol of oppression; Blackgate Prison, where a thousand men have languished under the name of this man.”

Harvey-Dent-the-dark-knight-9471370-543-359Bane holds up a picture of Harvey Dent and continues, “Harvey Dent, has been held up to you as the shining example of justice …You have been supplied with a false idol to stop you from tearing down this corrupt city. Let me tell you the truth about Harvey Dent from the words of Gotham’s police commissioner, James Gordon.”

Bane quotes Gordon’s letter, “‘The Batman didn’t murder Harvey Dent, he saved my boy then took the blame for Harvey’s appalling crimes so that I could, to my shame, build a lie around this fallen idol. I praised the mad man who tried to murder my own child but I can no longer live with my lie. It is time to trust the people of Gotham with the truth and it is time for me to resign.'”

Bane asks the crowd, “And do you accept this man’s resignation? Do you accept the resignation of all these liars? Of all the corrupt?”

Police Officer John Blake watches the speech on television says to Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, “Those men were locked up for eight years in Blackgate and denied parole under the Dent Act, based on a lie?”

Gordon explains, “Gotham needed a hero …”

Blake is disgusted, “You betrayed everything you stood for.”

The Dark Knight Rises and all Power of Truth stories chronicle the most profound and personal betrayals. These stories also ask: when does betrayal look like loyalty and when does loyalty looks like betrayal? These stories’ twists, turns, treachery, and reversals, changes everything the character believes is true. All the character holds dear is destroyed.

One of the major betrayals at the heart of the film is Alfred Pennyworth’s omission in telling Bruce Wayne what happened just before Bruce’s great love, Rachel Dawes, died. Alfred argues against Bruce re-emerging as Batman, revealing the truth.

2517-27939Alfred says, “I’ll get this (package) to Mr. Fox, but no more. I’ve sewn you up, I’ve set your bones, but I won’t bury you. I’ve buried enough members of the Wayne family.”

Bruce Wayne can’t believe Alfred would leave him.

Alfred explains, “You see only one end to your journey. Leaving is all I have to make you understand, you’re not Batman anymore. You have to find another way. You used to talk about finishing a life beyond that awful cape.”

Bruce argues that Rachel died believing that the two of them would be together; that was his life beyond the cape. He can’t just move on. She didn’t, she couldn’t.

Alfred reluctantly tells the truth, “What if she had? What if, before she died, she wrote a letter saying she chose Harvey Dent over you? And what if, to spare your pain, I burnt that letter?”

Bruce accuses Alfred of just using Rachel to try to stop him.

Alfred is adamant. “I am using the truth, Master Wayne. Maybe it’s time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day. I’m sorry.”

Bruce can’t believe his ears. “You’re sorry? You expect to destroy my world and then think we’re going to shake hands?”

Alfred sadly admits that he knows what exposing this truth means. “It means your hatred… and it also means losing someone that I have cared for since I first heard his cries echo through this house. But it might also mean saving your life. And that is more important.”

Bruce Wayne turns on Alfred and bids him an angry good-bye.

Alfred’s action precisely echoes what Batman himself does at the end of the previous film, The Dark Knight. At the end of that film, Batman takes on the burden of Two Face’s crimes to give Gotham a “hero.” Batman turns himself into someone he’s not in the eyes of the public. Like Alfred tries to “save” Bruce Wayne/Batman from the truth, Batman tries to “save” Gotham from the truth.

movie-review-the-dark-knight-rises-620x413In Power of Truth stories, like Nolan’s Batman triology, things are never what they seem.  The tangled undergrowth of human duplicity catches and pulls at every character in the film.

In The Dark Knight Rises, deep below Gotham, a secret city seethes in rebellion. The terrorist Bane rises from underground to take over Gotham.  His complex subterranean lair tunnels under Gotham and undermines its very foundations. The hidden  criminal enclave is a visual symbol that under the assumptions of the slick shiny city surface dark deceit and a world of pain wait– For Batman and for anyone else in Gotham City.

What is Power?

51F7BV3TWPL._SL500_AA300_I was watching an interesting British mini-series, The Politician’s Wife, last weekend. The series is about a faithful political wife who supports her husband through an infidelity scandal. In this story, unlike The Good Wife, the protagonist exacts painful political revenge over the course of time.

In The Politician’s Wife, a bit of advice from one of her husband’s advisors (and a long time family friend) instructs her: “Power, real power, is invisible and therefore inviolable.”  That is a view of power from a Power of Will character.  Real power need not be seen it only need be felt.

What do other movie or television characters have to say about power:

In Schindler’s List Oskar Schindler tells Amon Goeth what he believes real power is:

Oskar Schindler: Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t.

Oskar Schindler: Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t.
Amon Goeth: You think that’s power?
Oskar Schindler: That’s what the Emperor said. A man steals something, he’s brought in before the Emperor, he throws himself down on the ground. He begs for his life, he knows he’s going to die. And the Emperor… pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.
Amon Goeth: I think you are drunk.
Oskar Schindler: That’s power, Amon. That is power.Oskar Schindler: Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t.

Amon Goeth: You think that’s power?

Oskar Schindler: That’s what the Emperor had. A man steals something, he’s brought in before the Emperor, he throws himself down on the ground. He begs for his life, he knows he’s going to die. And the Emperor… pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.

Amon Goeth: I think you are drunk.

Oskar Schindler: That’s power, Amon. That is power.

Power, real power, is mercy and pardon according to a Power of Conscience character.

In Death of A Salesman, Willie Loman tells his son what he believes real power is:

“The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.”

Power, real power, is popularity and personal magnetism according to a Power of Ambition character.

In Gladiator, Maximus tells his fellow soldiers what he believes is power: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

To a Power of Idealism Epic Hero power, real power, is honor and the memory of honor.

In Batman Forever, the Riddler flatters himself: “For if knowledge is power, then a God I am.”

To a Power of Reason Character power, real power, is intellectual superiority.

In The X Files, Fox Mulder says to Dana Scully:  “The truth will save you, Scully. I think it’ll save both of us.”

To  Power of Truth character power, real power, is the ability to discern the truth and reality from illusion.

What are your favorite movie quotes about power?  Let me know and I will tell what Character Type the protagonist is.