Sunday, July 6, 2014

Film Writes: Character Roles

WARNING: The following post contains plot spoilers for the movie Thor: The Dark World.

Most writers have seen lists of possible roles your characters can fill in your novel or short story. You've got the protagonist, or hero, of course, but you can also have any number of other characters. What about the antagonist? Or the foil? A sidekick? A villain? A love interest?

Using examples from the movie Thor: The Dark World, we'll break down some of the character roles that authors can use in their fiction.

> Protagonist (Hero)Thor, the Norse god of thunder. Having matured as the focal character in his first movie, Thor only becomes even more the hero with a deeper character development in this second movie. The entire plot hinges on his actions and decisions.

> AntagonistOdin, Thor's father. His wife Frigga's death throws him into a deeply vengeful and irrational state of mind. From there, as a true antagonist, he does everything he can to work against Thor's efforts.

> FoilLoki, Thor's adopted brother and the Norse god of mischief. It's tempting to call Loki an antagonist (or even a villain) as well, but that’s really inaccurate in this movie. Loki comes alongside Thor to avenge their mother, and he does some useful and even sacrificial things on Thor’s behalf. As a true foil, on the other hand, he's certainly Thor's polar opposite, so his presence in the movie serves to emphasize all of Thor’s characteristics.

> VillainMalekith, the Dark Elf ruler. His ruthless plans to destroy all life with the otherworldly aether reveal his total mercilessness and the calculating evil with which he acts. Sociopath would be another great word to describe him.

          > Sidekick (minion) – Algrim, the Kursed, Malekith’s right-hand man. Algrim takes and executes Malekith's orders without hesitation, no matter how heartless and cruel.

> Love InterestJane Foster, scientist. She’s not only Thor's romantic interest but also the protagonist of her own story line back on earth.

           > FoilDarcy, Jane's assistant. Darcy is absolutely nothing like Jane (outgoing where Jane is quiet, spontaneous where Jane is methodical), so she highlights all of Jane's character qualities.

          > SidekickIan, Darcy’s intern. Ian does whatever needs to be done, provides assistance, and brings comedic relief to the more intense movie moments. He'someone with whom Darcy and Jane (among others) can bounce around ideas and


What roles do your characters fill in your work-in-progress? Do you need to add a character to fill a missing role? Does your protagonist need a foil, someone totally opposite him or her to showcase his or her attributes? Or a love interest to provide a subplot or secondary story line? What about an antagonist, someone actively working against your protagonist’s goals?

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