I saw the newest Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Men Tell No Tales yesterday. I’ve always loved these movies brought to life from a ride at Disney Land. The writers knew they had a goldmine before they even started. And they took the idea and made it better. They created unforgettable characters.
Capt. Jack Sparrow is a loveable, disgusting, drunk who never runs out of luck. He makes the stories – and Johnny Depp takes the character and makes it huge. But before Johnny Depp, there was the writer who created this creature.
I marveled at the creativity behind this character. What made him so adorable and enduring? Why do we root for the underdog, the womanizer, pirate, and man-without-a-bath? Could it be that we identify with him? Or could it be that we tend to believe that underdogs put forth more effort than top-dogs, or use all available resources to their advantage? Underdogs are not expected to win and that is what makes them extraordinary.
Jack Sparrow certainly uses all available resources to his advantage. Remember the chase round and round the water wheel, his meeting with the Kraken face to face, or the guillotine in the latest movie?
Creating a memorable character takes exaggeration. Of all the things you know about the character you’ve created, what one or two things can you exaggerate to make it larger than life? Because that is your goal. Jack Sparrow drinks more than most people’s liver could accommodate and still he can run from the bad guys when most of us would be sleeping it off.
What are your character’s goals in life? Jack Sparrow had only one goal in life – to captain the Black Pearl – alive or dead. He had no connections to anyone, no family, no responsibilities to anyone but himself. He was free to do whatever he pleased and he pleased to be drunk and a pirate.
Creating an underdog is more fun than a hero – unless your underdog is the hero. As an underdog, he can bumble his way through life making mistakes that would stop most mortal men. Maybe you could make your hero clumsy, ugly, or wretched in some way so that other characters don’t expect much from him. But they will be surprised.
I’m on a quest to create a marvelous unforgettable character in my current WIP. I still have not achieved that goal. But much like an underdog, I will eventually get the job done, because I have resources.
What’s your latest WIP?