I've seen the first episode of Point Pleasant. I've been thinking about character.
One of the notable characteristics of Buffy is the strongly-drawn characters, right from the very first episode. Xander frequently annoys me, but he's anything but blah. We know who Cordy is from her first scene. We know who Willow is, and we watch the slow evolution and maturation of her character from year to year. Buffy herself is defined by the tension between her Chosen status, and her desire to live as an ordinary girl, but beyond that, she's an individual, not a type: witty, sardonic, skeptical, courageous, pro-active. Spike and Dru are unforgettable. As is Giles. And the Mayor. And Faith.
Point Pleasant has as its creator and executive producer Marti Noxon. Noxon was one of the BtVS writers, and later an Angel writer. She also directed and helped produce those shows. BtVS fans have had hopes for PP.
Is PP any good? It's not BtVS. The concept is different, for one thing. BtVS was conceived by Joss Whedon as a horror-comedy. PP seems to be drama-horror, with strong teen angst elements. No comedy, zero, zilch, this is the country of the Very, Very Serious. Christina, the lead, does not seem to be a strong character, in any sense of the word. She spent most of the episode looking lost and confused, and uninterested in doing anything about it. She's looking for her mother, but not very hard. All the males have square jaws and square pecs, and are very, very white. None seem to have any distinguishing personality characteristics. There's a dumb fight. There's a pretty girl who takes her clothes off. Beach. Bonfire. Lifeguards. Swimsuits. Skin. A guy is killed by [spoiler deleted]. The show feels a little like a crossover between The Omen and Baywatch.
I don't know whether the comparison with BtVS is quite fair. Joss Whedon is a comics fan, and BtVS is often a very comic-like show; maybe its cast of loveable grotesques (and I mean that in an admiring way) reflects that. Maybe PP is playing off a different model of TV drama: the fan boards are calling it a supernatural version of The O.C., which I don't watch. But I came away from the show's first episode feeling that I couldn't keep the characters straight, because they didn't have any real personalities. Or rather, they all had the same personality: they were all Beautiful Bland Young People.
BtVS's first episode had its problems, too: the timing often seemed off, the action seemed forced, the martial arts weren't smooth enough to be convincing. But by the time you got to the end, by god, you knew who these characters were. PP wasn't like that. All the characters seemed interchangeable and uninteresting. Hint to scriptwriters: I'm not going to care when Character A hits Character B if I don't care about A and B in the first place.
For the past six months or so, I've been thinking a lot about character. I advance the above as an insight: in order to care about action (or a love triangle, or any plot conflict), the reader first has to believe in, and care about, the characters involved. PP is not doing this for me. At least not in its first episode.
That may mean making the characters cartoon-ish, exaggerated. Jack Bickman says this in The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes, that if your character seems like a real person whom you might know, he's going to seem flat and dull to the reader. Fictional characters must be exaggerated to make them seem real.
'Food stylists' are photographers who photograph food, for advertisements and magazine recipe stories. They employ all sorts of bizarre tricks to make the food look appetizing. I read an interview with a food stylist who explained that in photographing a salad, she practically had to stand the bits of lettuce on end, in order to make the final photograph look three-dimensional to the viewer. Maybe there's an analogy here with character creation. Our characters need to be more real than real.
Or is all of this just a blinding glimpse of the obvious?
Happy birthday, adriennelily!
== shuuitsu == (noun, adjective that takes な) excellence
|Left radical is 'movement'. Right radical, now 'escape' (免) is actually a simplification of a character meaning 'hare'. Thus, 'hare-like movement', giving meanings of 'fast', and 'escape'. 'Excel' is probably an extension of 'fast'. Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'Move fast and escape.'|