Tuesday, March 17, 2009

when friends are enemies

Writers learn that characters can be flat or round (stereotypical vs complex, mythical vs factual). But conflict is seldom discussed in terms of flat or round. A round character has both good and bad aspects, and the audience is expected to consider both. A round conflict similarly invites the audience to pick a side without wholly rejecting or supporting either.

Many stories involve friends who become enemies or enemies who become friends. Few involve characters who remain both enemy and friend. The movies Heat and Gangs of New York are two examples. This rarity is understandable, since it's not common in reality. Human beings are emotional, and it's difficult to openly struggle against friends or associate with enemies; so few do so. But, as those films demonstrate, unbreaking juxtaposition of love and opposition can be a powerful story element.

A milder example is the relationship between Mal and Inara in the TV series Firefly. Their relationship is charged with romantic attraction, yet at the same time they are distanced by Mal's disapproval of Inara's whoring and Inara's occasional undermining of Mal's authority as ship captain. A similar example is the relationship between Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander.

I have no problem with the use of myths -- stories using straw figures purposefully and well. But I would like to see more games involving plots that are less about good vs bad than about the inevitable conflicts which arise from differences in values and perspectives.

Challenge yourself to write a story in which all the main characters are essentially good but conflict arises anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Do you think videogame titles lack this depth in their lead characters.

    I was only just talking about the idea of returning to a game because of the characters on my blog.

    Is it the depth of gameplay or the depth of character, that we return to a videogame for?


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