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The adept writer understands character and character arcs (that’s you dummy).
In a single hero story, this is pretty straight forward, but in the multiple main character, or ensemble cast story, a more advanced aspect arises, often overlooked or misunderstood. I speak of Character Dynamics.
Not to be misunderstood with writing “dynamic (multi-faceted, active, engaging) characters”… but rather the the force and relationship between characters that stimulates narrative development, or more specifically, change between them.
Of course Character Dynamics exists between all characters, whenever one character interacts with one another… but where minor characters are concerned the dynamic is important but momentary… with multiple main character stories: buddy stories, team stories, larger ensemble pieces, Character Dynamics become a recurring pattern and a primary consideration in driving the narrative.
Character Dynamics are ultimately about conflict.
From the Writer’s Guide to Comics; “Conflict is opposition. It can appear in the form of opposing ideas, arguments, or actions.”
You most certainly already know this… but this is only HALF the equation.
Character Dynamics are also about the harmony when conflict is resolved. “Harmony is agreement. It can appear in the form of similar or identical ideas, arguments and actions.”
Here is the rule you know instinctively, but never realized it until right now.
Unearned harmony is the antithesis of good story.
All harmony must burn through the crucible of conflict and confrontation. Only then can it be earned. In its most effective form, this reward of Harmony comes through connection to the Master Theme of the story, teaching/expressing through change, but at the very least, satiating through change.
Riggs is a loose cannon who wants to rush in headlong and fight the bad guys.
Murtaugh is more reserved and wants to fight the bad guys cautiously, by the book.
This is opposition.
Riggs learning he’s got to calm down because he’s putting people at risk.
And Murtaugh learning he’s got to take more risks or else he’s helping the bad guys get away.
This is the characters coming into harmony.
The two cops coming to this realization both around the understanding that “Partners do whatever it takes for each other.”
Would be expression of this harmony through the Master Theme (not the master theme of Lethal Weapon, I just threw that out there off the top of my head.)
The two cops coming to this realization, without the greater understanding of the Master Theme, wouldn’t be as effective, but it would still satisfy the reader with a distinct and deliberate change from conflict to harmony.
Unearned Harmony is the reason why a perfect day story never resonates.
In the real world, sitting on your couch, winning at video games, watching some fun movies, eating great food that you prepare perfectly; this would all be a perfect day in life… but in fiction it would be horribly boring to read.
I’ll prove this technically in a moment.
Unearned Harmony also lies at the root of Mary Sue characters… but in this, I digress.
We’re talking Character Dynamics today and Character Dynamics are about establishing a relationship between characters that specifically drives the narrative. Now let’s get to three rules that will change the way you write… for the better.