The Impact of Character

I shouldn’t be writing this right now–I should be working. You know, productive writing that will pay the bills and prevent the few fans I have from forgetting about me. But, I’ve never been one for all work and no play. So, here we go…

The point of this blog post (aside from the fact that I’m making a point of writing more of them in 2014) is that I recently saw a movie that struck an interesting chord in me–interesting enough that I wanted to ramble on about it in a public forum.

On New Years Day, which is becoming a tradition since moving to Texas, I went and saw a movie with my aunt and cousins–The Wolf of Wall Street. Aside from it being awkwardly graphic (something that I feel was actually necessary for its purpose, and not gratuitous), I was blown away by a few of its elements that normally would have bothered me.

A brief history…

Ever since I started telling stories professionally, I’ve become very observant of how story telling operates in a wide array of mediums. I watch a ton of TV shows because of love the episodic and serial forms, I watch movies because I love to see how they pace things, how they develop characters, and how they use structure to tie everything together (something this blog post is lacking).

So what did I notice about The Wolf of Wall Street?

The character arcs were lacking. The lead character, Jordan Belfort, doesn’t grow or change from the beginning to the end. For better or worse, he stays true to who he really is The same can be said for the other characters, perhaps with the exclusion of his second wife, Naomi.

The plot was pretty stagnant. Aside from a few tangents, it’s pretty easy to see where things are heading, and there are no real surprises. That said–the movie fascinated me.

But why?

The characters were interesting. They were one of a kind. They were like cartoon characters brought to life. There were scenes that didn’t even attempt to move the story forward, yet they weren’t boring–I loved them. They sucked you into their world and made you forget that you were watching a movie that clocks in over twice as long as your average flick.

As a writer, I’m very scene and goal driven. I’ve studied and employ a very tight structure to my stories, and anything that isn’t serving an immediate purpose to moving the plot gets cut in post-production (my revision stage). But this movie has opened my eyes to new possibilities.

I’d like to see myself incorporate more of these same elements into my own stories. I’m going to make a point of letting myself ramble and get lost in a scene. To let it take me where it will and see where I end up. I think this ingredient is crucial to building interesting and unique characters that can carry a story, and it’s the biggest thing I think is falling short in my own stories.