Monday, February 05, 2007

Character Development

If you've ever watched Pitch Black and the Chronicles of Riddick, you'll see the perfect take on character development. Vin Diesel plays Richard Riddick in these futuristic, sci-fi movies. In Pitch Black, he's a dangerous convict feared by everyone aboard ship, but in the end, he's the hero. The interesting aspect of this is that Riddick is not a nice guy. He's a criminal. He's a hardened killer who won't blink an eye about his profession. Throughout Pitch Black, we see little chinks in his armor, small glimpses of a better man trying to seep through. But those positive aspects to his character never take over. He's still not a nice guy in the end - he just ends up saving the ship and a few members of the crew lucky enough to survive.
In Chronicles of Riddick, Vin's character is given a different task. He suddenly is the one prophesized to overtake the evil lord of a race of people bent on converting everyone in the solar system to their religion. Riddick is still that same bad guy with a heart as cold as ice. He's ruthless, hard, and viscious. But bit by bit, there are other aspects of his character that come out. His vulnerabilities. His need to avenge his people. His conflicting feelings for Kyra, a woman who has emulated him since she was a young girl (her character is Jack in Pitch Black.) And ultimately, his conflict with himself - a ruthless killer who must become a savior.
There's an interesting scene with Riddick and the evil lord. Riddick wants to destroy him once and for all and he says, "You've taken away everything I love." Talk about a line. Suddenly, we learn that Riddick isn't just a block of ice - he's a man with feelings. Layers, peeled away at the right time, all part of his character, all essential to his true nature.
In my novel, my character is an embittered widow who lost her husband at Normandy. Since I'm editing and rewriting right now, I'm really finding out that there's a lot more to her than I originally thought. At first, she was a bit immature, a bit selfish. But now that I'm starting to dig deeper, I'm finding that there's a maturity to her I wasn't aware of. It made me realize that what I saw at first glance - who she was in the first draft - isn't who she really is. That was just the surface. Just as we first think that Riddick is a heartless, ruthless killer, that's only our first impression. Yes, he is that - but he's so much more.
As I delve further into my character's motivations, into her conflicts and struggles, it's amazing to see her develop. And it's also deeply humbling to know that I've been given a gift that allows me to look into the human character and uncover and understand the intricacies of who we are.


  1. Riddick as writing lesson...that's a new one. But I see what you mean and that works well. What I find amazing is when you write then go back and read and see how seamlessly you've done the transitions without meaning to.

  2. Melissa, that's exactly why I hate doing the first draft and love, love, LOVE revising. :D The first draft just shows the surface characters, which aren't always lovable (at least in my case). It's all the revisions that bring out the depth in my characters.

  3. My heroine Cécile did much the same - gradually revealed stuff as I wrote then revised the story :-)

  4. Re Riddick: sounds like he's the quintessential "Bad Boy" we all hate, fear, but eventually love. The fatal allure of these guys is their sensitivity beneath the roughness -- and our own urge to bring it out.

    It sounds like your book will be equally fascinating, Melissa. Can't wait to read it!

  5. Great characters always draw us in and invite us to learn more about what makes them tick.

    Beautifully put.

  6. I watched PItch Black for Cole Hauser. I barely noticed lug head...I mean Vin Deisel...

  7. Nice post Melissa--I haven't seen these movies but I love the essence of character development. It is one of the reasons I love Suzanne Brockmann so much, she'll have a character who we love to hate (Mary Lou) and next book she'll turn her into a secondary heroine. Love it :)


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