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Good characters

I just came across this article on io9, "Good Character Development Includes the All-Important 'F*@% Yeah' Moment," and I read it immediately, because I'm always looking for good advice on writing. The takeaway from it is that having the character have a moment of courage, sacrifice, or triumph really helps the audience get invested.

Now, the concept is limited, and the article author admits it - it's something that really applies mostly to the science fiction and action genres - but the idea is that we're not watching a show to see the characters live a normal life: we want to see the characters step up to an extraordinary situation and deal with it. The characters become interesting when we see why we're watching them in the first place. And I'd say this applies to less action-y genres, though you might not actually say "Fuck yeah!" during such a moment. Even in a romance, the main character needs to come to realization of what he/she wants and make his/her decision, or action, or sacrifice that brings the story to completion.

The article is making me rethink parts of the long fic that I've been working on for a while now. The main character doesn't need to make the reader go "Fuck yeah!" - that's not the type of story I'm going for - but she does need more moments of revelation, more moments of take-charge.

The article lists the five types of "Fuck yeah!" moments and gives examples of each of them. As I was reading them, I started to try to think of great "Fuck yeah!" moments in Doctor Who, and the first one that came to mind, one of the best ever, was the moment the Doctor forcibly suspended his regeneration and commandeered the spaceship in order to return to Androzani Minor to save Peri. And look, the author cites that moment in type 4, "the moment of amazing altruism or saving others." It's great to see other people remembering that wonderful episode.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 3rd, 2014 04:54 am (UTC)
Yeah...I love that moment myself, lol!! It is a moment I strive for in ifction, but don't get a chance to use often.

Aug. 3rd, 2014 07:17 am (UTC)
Oh, me too! I think the problem for me is that I write primarily fan fiction with few OCs, so the characters I'm using have already had their FY moments and it's hard to give them new ones, especially in the short stories I mostly write.
Aug. 3rd, 2014 06:26 am (UTC)
Ohhh, this is quite true. And it made me think of RTD vs. Moffat too, and the attachment for characters… the comparison has its limits, since RTD's companions are more realistically built and layered on a psychological level, if you ask me, but they also get "Fuck yeah" moments—but my heart still goes to River Song in a heartbeat. (It really only works for her, since RTD and Moffat companions have an about equal amount of kick-ass moments, I'd say.) And in general, over time I've been more and more character and style-driven in my love of fantasy/sci-fi, and kind of drifting away from the genre in general, but while I'll prefer a good, heart-wrenching life story for reading purposes, I've never gotten as invested in one such fandom. Then again, it's very interesting seeing you adapt the "fuck yeah" concept to non-sci-fi material, for romance for instance, that makes sense :)

It's wonderful the author referred to the exact same moment as you did! :D
Aug. 3rd, 2014 07:35 am (UTC)
Interesting - your discussion here just made me think about Clara, and applying the FY (Fuck Yeah, but easier to type) theory to her. Now, the important thing is that I don't like her: to me, she seems to be simply a plot point, either the Impossible Girl spurring the Doctor to figure her out, or the one who comes up with the solution to the problem after the Doctor has failed.

Thinking about her in terms of the FY theory, the problem with her is that she's too perfect, being fearless, clever, compassionate, sacrificing, cute, and bubbly. She doesn't have a weakness, and therefore, any triumph she achieves or sacrifice she makes doesn't have an impact. The one time she does make the ultimate sacrifice, by entering the Doctor's timestream, her FY moment is stolen from her by having the Doctor save her. (It might not be charitable to remove her "hero" status by citing an event that happens after her sacrifice, but that's the way it works in narrative: when they make a big deal about how she can't possibly survive entering the Doctor's timestream, and then another big deal about how the Doctor entering his own timestream is a paradox that will destroy everything, and then they ignore both and everything comes up roses with no consequences, it cheapens the sacrifice and ruins the story.)

Hm, ok, I really didn't mean to write a huge Clara-bash here. Sometimes I talk too much. :)
Aug. 6th, 2014 06:47 pm (UTC)
Haha, that's fine, don't worry. :) You didn't sound bashing, just critical! Personally, I like Clara's character—partly thanks to Jenna-Louise Coleman's performance and because she's sharp and fun, and interesting in an emotional level—the use that's made of her, not so much. I don't think she's fearless—I think she tries to be fearless. She acts a lot like the Doctor is testing her and she has to prove herself to him—which she was right to pick up on in a way, because he is observing her a lot at first, trying to figure her out. In Cold War, she's obviously daunted by realizing what those adventures can be all about, but she still acts like it's a test somehow and she has to prove herself, to keep it together. In Hide, she's also rather uneasy but trying to act tough ("I'm a grown woman, you don't need to hold my hand."). She seems to be a lot about control, about living up to people's expectations and just taking every situation in her stride. Which is why it should be interesting to see her thrown a bit and in more challenging situations with Twelve, because she's trying to always get things right, but she can't—she's just a girl. But come to think about it, she’s visibly freaked several times in her episodes. The thing is, however—she goes through stuff that should make her a lot more than a bit freaked. The timestream thing, the travelling through the freaking Time Vortex, just clinging to the TARDIS. That should be fairly traumatic. But like you mentioned, the getting out of the timestream/being scattered throughout the Doctor’s life just… entirely fell out of the radar (I wasnʼt bothered so much by the sacrifice being cheapened, as her courage still stands, but really by how grossly unrealistic it was that they made such a huge deal about jumping into the timestream, and then did not even bother showing us how they were getting out)—as for the Vortex travel, just lol. It’s Clara! Wrap her up in a blanket, give her tea and she’ll be fine. But that’s a Moffat thing with emotional coherence. The Ponds’ family mess regarding Melody is also only hinted at… I get that Who’s focus is not supposed to be psychology and that PTSD!Clara would be difficult to work into the plot, but that’s no excuse to dismiss consequences altogether. So yeah, that part is problematic.

Aug. 6th, 2014 06:47 pm (UTC)
(Hahaha… I'm sorry… I broke wordcount :D Known to happen.)

Now, that is Clara emotionally, as a person—the feel I get of her character, anyway. Clara as a plot device is something I thoroughly agree on—and honestly, it really bugs me. Her role in episode resolutions often feels pretty unrealistic. The episode resolutions I often had problems with lately, anyway—it felt like they were heavily relying on the symbolical, which can be very interesting, but sometimes it just feels… off. I read a critique somewhere that argued that Moffat is more fantasy-oriented than strictly sci-fi, and though I’m no expert on the genres, I found this seemed quite true. Anyway… Clara just very often seemed to get what had to be done, or even more often what had to be said, really out of the blue, and that’s a thing that bothered me. The leaf in Akhaten, the singing in Cold War, the way they brought her talking to the Doctor in DotD, the fact that the Time Lords listened to her, just a human girl… It felt wrong. It wasn’t really Clara’s insight bringing the resolution, it felt like she was just a plot device, indeed, like things happened through her. In the two last specials she was as good as the Voice of the Loving Companion Who Knows Who the Doctor Really Is. Ahem… That especially didn’t sit right with me because I’d been really scared the show would go for omniscient!I’ve seen your whole life!Clara after the timestream’s events and yeah :( I used to really, really love Clara. In the specials not so much, so I’m really hoping that s8 and her new dynamic with Twelve will be an occasion to develop Clara as a person, Clara’s emotions and Clara’s insights and Clara’s mind, not Clara Gets It Because She Can. Just… no. Her mystery is done, only the character, the person should be left now… (On the other hand, from what I heard of s8—the official info from interviews, not anything that leaked, no worries—she’ll have a really tough time with Twelve, and I don’t know what to think about that, lol. Like I mentioned, I like the dynamic being more challenging, I love the thought of a rougher Doctor too, a bit like Nine—but Iʼm worried about the U-turn and how theyʼll handle that. Itʼs funny, I really love Moffatʼs stuff despite finding tons to criticize about it and getting really annoyed at his recurring flaws, but at the same time I have very limited trust in his way of handling things :/ Most of all as far as emotional continuity and long-term storylines are concerned.)

Haha, see, I got very rambly… hope you donʼt mind ;)
Aug. 6th, 2014 08:44 pm (UTC)
"Clara just very often seemed to get what had to be done, or even more often what had to be said, really out of the blue, and that’s a thing that bothered me. The leaf in Akhaten, the singing in Cold War, the way they brought her talking to the Doctor in DotD, the fact that the Time Lords listened to her, just a human girl… It felt wrong."

This. This! THIS! Exactly!! And those examples, YES! I couldn't believe that the Doctor suddenly came up with how to save Gallifrey just because Clara started crying. And the Time Lords listening to her! (I'll also go on a tangent and point out here that she appealed to their "love" for the Doctor. The Time Lords never loved the Doctor, which is very evident in every instance in which they appeared in the show, even in DotD. She should have said, "if you ever want to get out of the pocket universe, you have to help him." *urgh* That scene made me so angry.) Not only was Clara saving the day by things happening through her, as you put it, but it robbed the Doctor of the heroism: that gorgeous speech in Akhaten and coming up with and implementing the salvation of Gallifrey (which he'd apparently been thinking about for four hundred years, but needed Clara to remind him to do it?). And if written well, having the Doctor beg the Time Lords for help, since he's sworn to never give up *and* the Time Lords have everything to gain by help him, could have been a very heroic moment as well.

But you're right, as you listed, Clara isn't as perfect as I made her out to be, but she still just doesn't sit right with me as a character. I am very much hoping that she develops a lot more with Twelve. They've done the Doctor/companion antagonism before, with Five/Adric, as well as other tension in the TARDIS (Tegan/Turlough), and it really added a layer of complexity to the show; hopefully they will do it as well. Only time will tell. Sadly, I don't have any faith in Moffat's stuff (he seems to go for the timey-wimey and the cheap feels, rather than good characters and meaningful personal storylines), but I'm going into Series 8 hoping for the best. (And honestly, as long as the individual adventures are fun, I'll be good with that. I'm just a little pessimistic because I didn't like most of Series 7's episodes.)
Aug. 10th, 2014 07:11 pm (UTC)
Yes, exactly. Both of those sudden resolution movements just felt sudden and out of the blue, unrealistic. And youʼre also exactly right about the Time Lord. Sentimentalism about the Doctor was the last thing they were likely to respond to. Gratefulness for saving them, maybe, and even then… thatʼs really stretching it. I agree, the likeliest option was their knowing they had to help the Doctor in their own interest. Like you said, even in DotD it was clear the Doctor was an outsider.

Yeah, it should have been the Doctor talking to the Time Lords. All right, it ruined the heroic walking-to-my-death moment, and his surprise at being granted new regenerations. So what? Heʼs walked to his death before. That could be sacrifized for the sake of realistic development. (Also, it would have removed the freaking crack opening at the middle of the sky and spitting out regenerations at him. I was hysterical with laughter.) That would have explored the Doctor vs. the Time Lords, which would have been interesting, given a good dramatic moment/an occasion for vibrant acting… and it just shouldnʼt have been Clara. The Time Lords wouldnʼt just listen to a human companion :( All right, Clara had to play her part and be relevant somehow… but she could have encouraged the Doctor to talk to his people or something, I donʼt know… been relevant to the Doctor, found the words to get through to him. That she could do. This, no.

Thatʼs understandable, given the issues in the writing. I really hope her character is well developed in s8, too. With Capaldi, if Clara had an occasion to shine too and Danny Pinkʼs addition worked well… it could be really great :D Fingers crossed.

Now youʼre making me want to see those tension-in-the-TARDIS parts. XD My classic watching is so slow.

On Moffat: I so get you. The timey-wimey and lack of solid emotional insight really bother me about him too—trying to remain positive and hopeful, though ;) I agree about the individual episodes, too. Personally I mostly had a problem with s7-a, s7-b worked better for me but that was mostly because Clara kept me hooked, I think. The episodes themselves I found good, but the resolutions often lacked something—we discussed that already. Ironical, since s7 didnʼt have two-parters and was supposed to focus more on individual eps—but at the same time, it probably contributed to making endings seem very rushed. (The Power of Three was ridiculous because the episode itself was pretty fun, with good build-up and insight in the right places, and then you had that closure and I just went wtf?!) S6 remains my favourite season and thatʼs partly because the individual episodes were really good—the other part being River Song, though her story went a bit all over the place because timey-wimey mess =P
Aug. 11th, 2014 04:08 am (UTC)
I like your comment about the Time Lords wouldn't listen to the human companion; it's so very true. I think that what Clara should have done is to either say that if the Doctor didn't appeal to the Time Lords, both Trenzalore and the Time Lords are doomed, or that he needs to swallow his pride and beg his people for help. Probably the first, because I don't think they want to make the second point during his farewell episode.

Of course, talking about this with my husband only made us want to watch the episode again today, so we did. :D

Oh, the Power of Three. It needed so little to make it a great episode - just remove a little bit of the "Doctor is bored" stuff to allow time for a proper resolution. For me, s5 is my favorite, but yes, the individual stories in s6 are very good. I am starting to get really excited for s8, though, as it gets closer and closer. :)
Aug. 11th, 2014 06:02 am (UTC)
Yes, I completely agree. Lol, the first point sounds more fitting for episode climax indeed, but both are quite accurate :)

Rewatches ftw! And sharing fandom discussions with family ♥

So true. And s5 was very nice, but I'm a bit iffy about Amy at her beginnings, so that didn't help me. Episodes like Amy's choice are just brilliant, though.

Yes, let s8 come already! :D
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