Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Film Writes: Qualities That Make Your Characters Endearing

Think of someone in real life whom you admire, respect, or genuinely like. What quality or characteristic makes that person someone you admire?

Now think of a character you admire in a work of fiction. What do you admire most about him/her?

Many traits can make a character endearing. You want to include traits that make your characters memorable, in good ways.

Three of my favorite qualities in characters are vulnerability, a sense of humor, and selflessness. And Olaf the snowman from Disney's Frozen embodies all three.

Vulnerability

Olaf: "Sometimes, I like to close my eyes and imagine what it'll be like when summer does come!"

Olaf is open about his dreams of summer (whether that's a good idea for a snowman to dream or not). He lets himself express what he really longs for, even when someone else (ahem --- Kristoff) could easily squelch his hopes. There's something endearing about that kind of vulnerability and honesty.

Sense of Humor

Olaf: "Not yellow. Yellow and snow? No go."

Impaled on a jagged icicle? Pursued by an enraged ice monster? Need advice on a fresh color scheme in the midst of a chronically white landscape? Olaf's got the answer, often in a way that calms anxiety and eases dramatic tension for other characters (and the viewers).

Selflessness

Olaf: "I am not leaving here until we think of another way to save you!"

Perhaps the most poignant line in the movie is one Olaf speaks to a shivering Anna as they crouch by a blazing fire. Anna warns him that he can't stay with her because he'll melt. His response? "Some people are worth melting for," he tells her, as his face and body begin to melt in the heat.

That's the sort of thing that makes Olaf so endearing.


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What qualities make your protagonist and other characters (Olaf is a secondary character in Frozen, remember) endearing? Can you find a place in your WIP to incorporate an unexpected sense of humor, or passion for a personal desire or goal, or an opportunity for your character to be selfless?

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