Friday, June 5, 2009

What makes an interesting protagonist (Part 1): Single-minded determination.

It’s been said that art reflects life. It’s also been said that movies are art. If those two statements are true, then movies reflect life.

Which they don’t.

Movies reflect a distilled version of life. In simple terms, they take out the uninteresting. Or should.

Which brings me to the protagonist.

The difference between a movie protagonist and, say, you, is single-minded determination. The protagonist of a movie is attempting to achieve something against overwhelming difficulties. He might have to pick up his dry cleaning or try to figure out why his insurance company won’t cover his acupuncture, but if he does, it’s because those represent the overwhelming difficulties he has to face in order to achieve his goal. Not because these are the things he needs to take care of. And certainly not because it’s stuff he enjoys doing.

It’s an important distinction. Heroes have quests. And quests aren’t something you get to between meetings.

That’s not to say heroes don’t have shit to take care of. That shit is reality and if you’re creating a realistic hero, you can’t have him live in an unrealistic world. But for a movie to be interesting, you want to watch a hero pursuing a goal, not taking Thursday afternoon off to go for a hike.

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