The concern with "character growth" in popular fiction

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AardvarkGoodSwimmer
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15 Mar 2022, 1:20 pm

Hello

vividgroovy wrote:
. . . But then, "Star Wars" is a coming-of-age story. The flaws Luke needs to overcome in his hero's journey -- naivete, impatience, etc. -- are flaws that a young person is generally expected to have. Under the philosophy I'm talking about, in order to have a "proper arc," Luke must realize he's been a terrible person all along and change into somebody totally different. . .

That last part is a good example of what might happen if a person tries to apply a fiction “rule” in a mechanical fashion.

PS was trying to put the quote in larger text



And So It Goes
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16 Mar 2022, 7:02 am

vividgroovy wrote:
That's a good scene.

Honestly, I usually hate movies where nothing happens unless the characters are really interesting and the dialog is very sharp.

Note, though, the variety of different scenarios that the screenwriting coach suggests. It isn't just "protagonist learns they were wrong about everything and becomes an entirely different person" and that's it.

Also, while the people in question don't usually discuss movies like "Adaptation," I can imagine them saying:

"Charlie starts out wanting to write a screenplay and at the end he writes a screenplay. That's not an arc! That's not 'Want vs. Need!' Screenwriting fail. 0/4 stars."


Storytelling and the art form itself is subjective, but in the context of 'Adaptation', the aim in that seminar is to create a good enough screenplay and story that it can be sold and earn you money and a potential leg up the industry ladder.

Hardly a screenwriting fail to those that would imagine it to be. What about the relationship with Donald as well as Susan and Amelia? And the psychological growth within Charlie? You can be your own worst enemy, and especially for me, with my experiences of Autism and Mental Health, learn to live with or overcome those demons within you.

These sorts of stories can be made engaging in a plethora of creative ways, but are only seen as 'nothing happening', because there is no physical action being portrayed. It's all about different tastes. It's still a story, still with an arc.

Yes, people do boil down the primary plot, and negate the sub-plot, but only if they're not willing to engage enough into it or aren't being piqued by it to begin with.

But again, that's all down to their preference of films. If they don't want to watch a film of this calibre because "Nothing happens" then so be it.

Even Documentaries have a narrative. A passage of time that passes with some sort of change happening within. Fly-on-the-wall documentaries where you watch a conversation between people progress. Even if said conversation meanders or comes to a stand-still, that ironically is still a change, be it minute or massive.


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vividgroovy
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17 Mar 2022, 12:48 am

AardvarkGoodSwimmer wrote:
That last part is a good example of what might happen if a person tries to apply a fiction “rule” in a mechanical fashion.


Yes, I think these "rules" are useful guidelines, but sometimes people's standards are so strict, it's hard to tell what they actually think "counts" as a character arc.


And So It Goes wrote:
Storytelling and the art form itself is subjective, but in the context of 'Adaptation', the aim in that seminar is to create a good enough screenplay and story that it can be sold and earn you money and a potential leg up the industry ladder.

Hardly a screenwriting fail to those that would imagine it to be. What about the relationship with Donald as well as Susan and Amelia? And the psychological growth within Charlie? You can be your own worst enemy, and especially for me, with my experiences of Autism and Mental Health, learn to live with or overcome those demons within you.


Yes, that's what I'd say.

People often seem to have a problem with a fictional character getting what they want in the end. Ariel wants to live in the human world and she gets to. Aang wants to find a way to stop the Fire Lord without killing him and he does. The five main characters in "How I Met Your Mother" all got the jobs they wanted. Etc., Etc. According to this philosophy, these all violate the "Want vs. Need" rule. That's why I thought they would object to Charlie accomplishing his goal of writing a screenplay and ignore any other change he went through.

Quote:
These sorts of stories can be made engaging in a plethora of creative ways, but are only seen as 'nothing happening', because there is no physical action being portrayed. It's all about different tastes. It's still a story, still with an arc.

Yes, people do boil down the primary plot, and negate the sub-plot, but only if they're not willing to engage enough into it or aren't being piqued by it to begin with.

But again, that's all down to their preference of films. If they don't want to watch a film of this calibre because "Nothing happens" then so be it.

Even Documentaries have a narrative. A passage of time that passes with some sort of change happening within. Fly-on-the-wall documentaries where you watch a conversation between people progress. Even if said conversation meanders or comes to a stand-still, that ironically is still a change, be it minute or massive.


When I say a movie where "nothing happens," I'm thinking of certain art films that seemingly bore the audience on purpose to make a point. Even in these films, it's not totally true to say nothing happens and I'm sure some of them have artistic merits, I just don't have the patience to be purposely bored by my entertainment.



AardvarkGoodSwimmer
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17 Mar 2022, 11:55 am

And So It Goes wrote:
. . . 'Adaptation', the aim in that seminar is to create a good enough screenplay and story that it can be sold and earn you money and a potential leg up the industry ladder.

Hardly a screenwriting fail to those that would imagine it to be. What about the relationship with Donald as well as Susan and Amelia? And the psychological growth within Charlie? You can be your own worst enemy, and especially for me, with my experiences of Autism and Mental Health, learn to live with or overcome those demons within you. . .

What I remember about 2002’s Adaptation:

The Chris Cooper telling his mother he’s going to soon be completely out of debt and she’s saying she’s proud of him. Then the terrible car accident, and it happens so quickly, I think like real life.

The Meryl Strep and Chris Cooper characters bouncing around a hotel room snorting some green drug.

And this barrel-chested English guy pontificating from stage about how to write a screenplay.

===========

I’ve also written stories and just maybe aspire to screenplays. And I can go deep in the analysis.

But when I’m not “on,” I focus on the high points of a movie. You might do this, too.



vividgroovy
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31 Mar 2022, 12:58 am

Digging up this thread again because of another recent example of this.

People on an "Avatar: TLA" group were talking about how good Zuko's redemption arc was (which I agree with) and then somebody said Draco Malfoy in "Harry Potter" didn't get such an arc because Rowling was not a good or empathetic enough writer to write it that way. (I don't want to derail the thread with discussions of Rowling's controversy, but I think using this particular criticism of the books as evidence of her "lack of empathy" is pretty weak.)

The point is that grown-up Harry and Draco are able to stand together on Platform 9 3/4 and see their kids off to school. Perhaps they're not best friends, but they don't want to kill each other. They've broken the cycle of hatred. Draco didn't become his parents. That's his redemption. Zuko's arc worked great for him, but I don't think every antagonist MUST go through the same arc and become one of the heroes in order to be redeemed. It would be different it Rowling was aiming to write that kind of arc and missed the mark, but I don't think she was. The person who said this later walked it back a bit and said if she had been the author, she would have given Draco that arc, but also claimed that it must have been an accident that Draco was a complex character, because Rowling couldn't have written it that way on purpose.



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17 Nov 2022, 5:29 pm

vividgroovy wrote:
[Originally posted in the Writing forum, but as the examples I've used are from film and TV, I think it goes better here.]

Lately, I've noticed a great deal of concern in online fiction discussion with character arcs and whether or not the protagonist "shows growth" over the course of the story. While there are plenty of great stories that focus on that sort of arc, it's taken to such a degree that people claim protagonists without one are "flat" and that their stories are not even stories at all. Furthermore, protagonists that do explicitly have arcs are accused of not having one, because "they're still the same person at the end of the story."

Recently, I was in a discussion with someone who claimed that Aang from "Avatar: The Last Airbender" didn't have a proper arc but had "plateaus," or in other words, that he didn't show continuous growth. He also claimed that the show "violated Writing 101" because Aang starts and ends the show "not facing problems directly." "If a character starts out doing X, then generally they should not end doing X," he claimed. This guy was a lot more polite and reasonable than a person from another discussion, the director of the film "Happily N'Ever After 2," who claimed that Disney's "Little Mermaid" violated these rules because Ariel didn't learn an overt lesson. When I questioned the reasoning behind this, he replied, "I'm not your professor. Take a writing class."

I'm just wondering, in this philosophy, is there ever a time to like a character for being themselves? Or only for who they can potentially become after their ceaseless "growth?"

Also, the idea that it's always the protagonist who must have the arc is interesting to me. The protagonist represents the audience perspective. I feel like the idea is that they think the reader/audience member must learn that they have to change into a different person. I also think this is why so many people identify with the antagonist these days, claiming they're "misunderstood" and were right all along, because "the rules" say the protagonist must change, but they don't say anything about the antagonist having to change.


Have there been specific stories in writing/literary publications addressing the concerns of "character growth" in popular fiction?

I located a LINK on a literary genre which addressess character growth. This LINK may be of interest:

On the Bildungsroman (LINK) literary genre:

EXCERPT: A literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from childhood to adulthood (coming of age), in which character change is important.The term comes from the German words Bildung ("education", alternatively "forming") and Roman ("novel").

(LINK) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bildungsr ... st_century