What is one important element casually forgotten in character building?
Brian: You can expend loads of energy building a character with unique visuals, a tragic origin, and an enigmatic personality, only to fall flat in storytelling. This occurs frequently in stories told in every medium. Great characters do not necessarily make great stories. The trick is to pull story out of the character and to do that you need an external influencer. This influencer not only exposes background, but sort of sets free the reasons and origins of the character in a very real and physical way.
Anna: Yeah, a presumed-dead loved one returns, sparking a wavering devotion in her lover’s heart. It’s simple, but writers tend to let their characters rest on the page…and a character at rest stays at rest. Many times, this influencer is most poignant when encompassed as an object. It doesn’t have to be Frodo on his way to destroy the ring in Mordor, but humans tend to link objects to highly emotional memories and events. Drop an object into your story and see where it takes the character.
Does good character automatically mean good story?
Brian: I’m the guy at Kunoichi always demanding structure in storytelling. I think tight structure and a casual reminder while writing that you are intending an audience to receive your message is always important. Part of that means knowing your characters like the back of your hand. That doesn’t mean everything is a character study. It provides your reader with a fancy hat to wear while walking through your story. Sometimes, that makes all the difference.
Anna: Still, something must be said for a rejuvenated interest in character-based stories with less concentration on plot developments. Shows like Madmen on AMC disprove the misconception that viewers prefer dense plot over rich character. I think fans love shows like Lost but how many plot-heavy serials can a viewer handle? The mysteries of Don Draper took forever to spill out, but Madmen is beloved for that character and the rest of the rich case.
Is there a mainstream character that, to you, embodies the very best in character building?
Brian: I always go back to Batman. Here’s a cultural icon that started off as a bad Superman rip-off in purple gloves. Flash forward and this is one of the must successful brands of all time, spawning toy lines, video games, television shows, comics and movies. What it comes down to is that Batman is a character with more diverse story possibilities than fans would like to think. The Adam West Batman television show in the 1960s was just as relevant as Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. DC Comics and Warner Bros. have been a lot less protective of Batman than of Superman or Wonder Woman. They understand that Batman: The Brave & The Bold can stand next to The Dark Knight without anyone crying foul. And it all comes down to a tortured character that everyone wants to be, or at least, be near. The fans will roast me, but an understanding of how youngsters relate to Batman as a character does necessitate characters like Robin the guest stars present in The Brave & The Bold.
What stands out as a recent success for Kunoichi character builders?
Anna: I’ve been just fascinated by Jose Garibaldi and Josh Fritz recent work on Kunoichi’s own Mondo Armando. I spent the first two weeks of concept reviews telling them their villains, like La crema, the Botched-Face Billionaire, and Manuel Mejor needed vast amounts of character development to be relevant. A week later I looked at it differently and realized what I called “half baked” was just that, but joyously so. These one-and-done villains accentuate Mondo and his protagonist buddies just right.