Thanks to Lynda R. Young, although she probably don’t wanna see her name on my blog, she inspired ole Bob Collins to put his $.02 in on the topic a creatin’ characters.
Thanks, Lynda. Sorry to bring you into this.
First things first. The easiest way to create a new character is the old fashioned way: No condom and just let ‘er rip. Mother Nature takes her course and a few months later, you got yourself something to deal with who’s gonna set off all sorts a plots in your life.
But that ain’t really what we’re talking about.
Alright, just shut up, Bob. No one likes your perverted digressions. Stay focused for once in your life. We’re talking about character creation–as in fiction.
Well, alright. I’m focused now.
Where does Bob Collins start? Since Bob Collins has his own personalized brand, he starts with…
Bob Collins’ Essential Character Building Tools.
It’s a patent-pending bunch a ideas that set any character you create off on the right foot.
And the first step is CORE NEEDS.
So. How the fuck does it work?
Glad you asked.
It all boils down to the premise that we all got some stuff inside us that don’t ever change. It’s an abstraction, or a way to understand these variety a things that don’t ever change inside us throughout the course a our lives.
Core needs are talents, certain personality traits. But it ain’t personality, persona, identity, or likeability.
A character’s core needs are them things that are a part a that character no matter what experiences they go through. Call it genetics, call it hardwiring. Call it “gumball factor” or “slut gene” for all I care. The core needs are them things that a character has in them from day one to day whatever–and they don’t ever change.
A good place to start thinking about a character core is the MBTI, or as us dumbasses like to call it–the thing that boxes you in (even though it don’t).
MBTI is the Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator. And let me stress, it’s one a them things that (most likely) don’t change. There’s a lot more that goes into a character, or a person, than the personality type. But it’s there and a good place to start.
(Remind me to go into my George Foreman bit at the end a this for an example of stuff that can change.)
Take me, for instance, Bob Collins. One a my core needs is to do a lot a banging with as many broads as I possibly can, but one a my other core needs is to feel independent or solitary. The need is almost pathological. Because a this need, I can never force myself to join groups or clubs, and having a job is a real pain in the ass, but that might just be since I’m a lazy piece a white trash, too.
My father is the opposite a good ole Bob. He loves being a member a groups. He’s a member a the Republicans, the Shamrock Club, a church, charitable organizations, The Reagan Ranch, The Heritage Club. He’s never happier than when a bunch a people are around. I’m sure there’s more he’s joined, too, but the point is made. He has a need to join groups.
These core needs set up behaviors. As you can see, I shun groups and dad runs to them with open arms and wagging tail.
Now, some event might get me to join a group and something might happen to make my dad a recluse for a while. It would have to be a pretty disastrous thing to make someone go against their core.
This is a great way to set up plots and stories.
If you’re careful, you could be unlocking a powerful tool here. And remember what it’s called:
BOB COLLINS’ CORE NEEDS.
You can think about it as whatever you want. Just make sure it’s a core trait—something immutable and unchangeable.
But be warned! Not everything is an immutable trait.
A surly demeanor might through a series of events turn into a bright and happy demeanor. It did with George Foreman, which I will touch on later.
PUT IT INTO PRACTICE
Once you establish a core, how do you use it to create a story?
Well, obviously, there are many other factors which Bob Collins will tackle whenever the fuck he feels like. But for right now, you can use a character’s core to set up a story like this–
Let’s say we create a charcter who’s a complete joiner, like my dad. This guy just needs to fit in and be a part of the social scene. If he doesn’t, he feels like shit about himself. One fine day, he does something that the group rejects, like stick his finger up a dog’s ass or something. He becomes a pariah. Now you have a miserable bastard who wants nothing more than to be a part a the group, but he’s outcast and ostrasized. What’s he do now? He stars in a damned story, that’s what.
If you know your story you can create a character with the perfect core to carry out that story.
Or, if you’re a bastard like me, Bob Collins, you create the character first because the story can always be found inside a well-designed character. I think some douche named Henry James had something to say about this (character is plot). (Which makes me think about the Hollywood idea of High Concept, but that’s another blog.)
ANOTHER EXAMPLE: THE SLUT GENE
If you ain’t aware, scientists think they’ve isolated a “slut gene”. What does this gene do? Well, if you’re lucky enough to have this gene, like I’m sure I do, it makes sex with multiple partners more exciting than monogomous sex.
I would say this gene would be a core trait. It’s in there and it ain’t going away.
But the interesting shit comes into play after we know that gene is there exerting compulsions on the character to act in a certain way.
Take this wayward soul afflicted with the slut gene. What if she’s raised in a fundemantal christian culture?
What choices does she make? How does she develop?
Does she give in to her compulsions? Or does she fight them because even though she has the slut gene she believes in how she was raised?
From this core trait follows a situation, which informs thoughts, feelings, actions, judgments, philosophies, justifications, choices–all of which make a story and define character.
NOW, IN THE RED CORNER, GEORGE FOREMAN
I knew I’d get to old George sometime in the course a this blog. If you’re not too exhausted by the boring shit I already wrote about, take a few minutes to consider former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman.
This is a great example a how something that seems like an immutable trait isn’t.
Back in the 70s George was the man, an absolute monster. He wasn’t just a brick shithouse, he was a brick skyscraper. He was so huge, so stacked with muscle, that he looked like a superhuman that could never be beat.
All the talking heads said that too. They said old George was invincible. George believed it. And he was a bit of a dick about it too. Standoffish, surly, rude–George was the whole package. He created his whole identity around the man who could never be beat. If you weren’t careful, you’d think George was born a dick. He played the part so well, you’d never think he was anything but a natural first class cocky asshole.
Then old George, cocky, surly, invincible George, had to fight Muhammed Ali.
If you aren’t aware, Ali won that fight with the “rope-a-dope”, knocking out Foreman in round 8 (I think).
But George wasn’t just beaten in the boxing match, he ended up broken. His identity had shattered. Before the fight he was unbeatable George Foreman, but the fact was he had been beaten. That fact was so strong and so not ignorable (meaning he couldn’t justify it into irrelevance as far as his identity was concerned), George went into two years of seculsion to deal with this conflict in reality versus belief. When he came out of seclusion, he had a different personality/persona/identity. He was no longer surly George, he was happy friendly George. He laughed and smiled and shook hands. He sold grills and made jokes. He named all a his kids George.
The point is, he had to change his identity or he would have went insane trying to reconcile irreconcirable identity and reality.
The next point is: identity is not a core trait, neither is demeanor, or persona. I will dig deeper into this in a later installment.
So, what if anything, was immutable here? George’s athletic ability was immutable. It was there from day one and it will be there when he is an old man. George made a comeback in his forties. He was still a contender.
In the next Bob Collins’ Essential Character Building Traits we’ll take a deeper look at identity and justification by using our poor miserable girl afflicted by the dreaded slut gene.
Don’t miss it.