Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Second Rule of Two: Two Choices

Reading thuRsday

In a recent repost of an observation about character catalyzed by "some old guys at [the] gym," Nathan Bransford helped clarify something I've also observed:

A character doesn't show any character unless he or she has two real choices.

You might object that regardless of the situation the character can always choose to act differently. While true in principle, in practice many of those choices are not real choices: if the space aliens come, demanding that you obey or be exterminated, choosing to be exterminated is a choice that generally accomplishes little more than taking you out of the story.

We have a lot of stories in comics, TV, and movies, where the hero does the right thing because they're the hero. I can't deny that simple stories like that have an element of fun. But consider how much more it says if a character, whom we've seen behave with both cruelty and kindness, chooses, at a critical moment, to be kind.

The key is to establish that the character has the capacity to go either way. Only when they're free to choose and capable of carrying out their choice do we see real character.


Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net