Revolutionary or Rebel – Part Two
I am back in sunny California.¬† Sea breezes and Mexican food tonight.¬† I had a wonderful time in Wisconsin and am lucky to have a beautiful lakeside apartment to stay in for the duration.¬† But it is always good to be back home.
I had a question about my last post.¬† Can a revolutionary also be a rebel?
The answer is real life, of course, is yes.¬† Real life is messy and complicated.¬† Storytelling is not.¬† The stories in film and television help us make sense of the world.¬† They lift us above the chaos of life.¬† They condense time, put things in context and give meaning to cause, effect and experience.
In order to have real power, a story and a character must have a single clear emotional focus.¬† That means a story must be about one true thing.¬† Intuitively, it would seem that if a story is about many things it would appeal to a wider audience.¬† In fact, the opposite is true.
When a story is about one true thing the audience brings their philosophy, experience and view of life and they measure that against the choices the character makes.¬† They bring their perspective to the story and test it against the one true thing on the screen.¬† In doing so, they make the story about themselves.
When a story is about too many things, it is confusing.¬† The audience can’t make the story about themselves because there is no clear hook or connection.¬† When a story is about too many things, it is about nothing.¬† The audience can’t find a clear way in.
Going back to the original question:¬† Is the character a revolutionary or a rebel?¬† What is the most true about the character.
Both a revolutionary and a rebel challenge the status quo.¬† Is the challenge to authority about changing or reforming a situation or society as a whole (the Power of Conscience) or is the challenge to authority about asserting personal individuality or personal autonomy against the dictates of the state or society (Power of Idealism).¬† (See yesterday’s post for examples.)
Once you’ve made your choice then bring all the decisions and conflicts back to that one true thing.¬† Answer all the Story Questions about that choice.¬† What’s a Story Question?
A character‚Äôs Story Questions are the defining personal, philosophical¬† and psychological questions that drive the character‚Äôs actions in the story.¬† They give the character’s emotional journey shape and meaning.
Each of the Nine Character Types wrestles with one specific and clear set of Story Questions.¬†¬† The character’s answer to those questions define the one true thing at the core of the film.
What about a novel?¬† There’s more room to explore in the longer form of a novel.
The best novels also have a very clear set of Story Questions at their core.¬† These questions might be expanded upon in more depth in a novel than in a film.¬† But the best novels don’t stray from the essential truth about what’s driving the character forward through the story.¬† Clarity of emotional focus is essential in every storytelling medium regardless of length or form.