Monday, April 26, 2010

V is for I'm a Veronica.

If you were a teenager in the late had to have heard of the movie Heathers. If you haven't, then let me explain.  The movie takes place in a fictional high schoool and plays on the stereotypes of cliques. Theres the jocks, the stoners, the band geeks...and the gorgeous girls that everyone both loathes and envies. In the movie Heathers, the queen bees are all named Heather.  Except for one...whose name is "V" is for Veronica.  She, as it turns out, is not a vapid mean person. It just turned out that she is beautiful and rich and therefore thrust into existence with others of her kind.

Well the movie gets interesting when a new guy comes to school and starts wreaking havoc among the student body. The dark comedy demostrates, in exaggerated fashion, the destructiveness of simply following along with the herd  and blindly copying the popular kids. Plus...they blow stuff up, which in my opinion, is really great film making. Thing is that although he is obviously dangerous and turns her life upside down, Veronica can't help herself...she's totally gone for this guy.

The reason I love this film is that the main character's love interest is played by Christian Slater and he does the most awesome job of capturing the dangerous allure of a bad boy. Granted he eventually tries to blow up the school, he is what I used to swoon over...cavalier, risk-taking, smooth talking...a bad influence if my mother ever warned me about one. But the charater Slater created was more than a rebel without a cause, or a misunderstood youth. He was funny and sarcastic, wicked-smart, and had a dark sense of humor.  He was not an cliche, or an archetype...he rang true.

In fiction there are several archetypal personalities to build on for a love interest. Theres The Playboy - a ladies man, loves women, charming You have the Alpha Personality - think spy or fighter pilot, an adrenaline junkie.  Then we have my personal favorite, The Bad Boy - he's all fast cars, swagger, and wrong side of town. Finally we have Wounded Dude - he's the guy whose family died, or lost a partner in a shoot out or something sufficiently torturous for him to brood over.

There are other archetypes; The Nice Guy who ends up being an Alpha, etc. But thats all they are, a framework. Its up to the writer to layer in the personality quirks, mannerisms, and a voice that makes it clear why the heroine is attracted to and flustered by the love interest you've provided. 

What are some of the things you use to layer a character? Do you base them on people you've met? I'd love to hear what you do to make a character real to you as a writer and by extension, your readers. Until next time...Go Write!


Kierah Jane Reilly said...

I *loved* Heathers! I was watching a cartoon with my kids and there was a group of elementary school-aged girls just like the Heathers, except they were called "The Ashleys" and the Ashleys all had younger sisters in kindergarten called "The Brittanys" I thought that was hilarious! To answer your question, I try to mix my characters so they've got elements of everything. If he's the hero I give him some traits of a playboy and a little bit of badness for flavor. If he's the bad guy, then I like to show his vulnerable and good side a little. I like my characters to be flawed in some way!

B. Miller said...

Oh yeah, I definitely remember that movie. Good to know you're a Veronica and not a Heather.

Nice post!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I remember Heathers. Twisted little movie!

I use things in my characters' past, things that went wrong with their lives, to shape their present personality. On numerous occasions, what the character thought was his strength turned out to be a weakness.


Thanks for a most informative blog,
I didn't see the film, being in the UK I'm not sure if it reached here,but I enjoyed reading about it,

Take care.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Sandra, my best friend, says I have made my MC, Samuel McCord, irresistable to females in that he is what she calls a "Sensitive Bastard" -- like an older Johnny Depp.

Autonomous yet caring. Capable of violence and in the same breath, of listening to the lonely cry of the lost ghost of a little girl.

I think we can avoid making our characters stereotypes by realizing each person is a living jewel, possessing many facets, yet remaining one individual despite that.

Though Hitler loved dogs, he was still an insane tyrant capable of monstrous things.

Thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving such lovely comments. Roland

Marjorie said...

I'm still working on this whole character thing. This month's blogging has mainly been about characters, but I'm still not sure what I'm doing. I just go with my gut.

KarenG said...

Such good points on layering characters! It's always good to mix things up a bit to avoid character cliches. Like why do the pretty girls always have to be snotty, rich and mean? I know tons of pretty girls who are popular, nice and work hard to have enough money to buy their own designer clothes. I like surprises in my characters. It makes them more real.

R. M. Iyer said...

Nice post on character clich├ęs. I know rich and beautiful girls who are also the nicest people around, and I know some really snooty people who perhaps have no reason for being so except that they are.

~ Rayna

Patricia Stoltey said...

Just checked to see if "Heathers" was available through Netflix and it is -- so I've popped it into my queue. You did a great job of whetting my appetite (I'm a movie junkie).

When I write from a particular character's point of view, I "turn into the character" and use his or her mannerisms and speech patterns in my head. (Hopefully I drop the character's persona when I go out to the grocery store.)

It's much easier to write dialogue when you use that technique.

Eric W. Trant said...

Just want to say that I read your post yesterday (Monday), and got to thinking more on it last night and today...

First off, I love the movie Heathers. One of my favorites.

But it was your descriptions of man-muffins that got me to thinking.

Playboy. Badboy. Arrogant. Bruised.

I got to thinking about the characters I write. So your post inspired me to re-evaluate the way I portray my main characters. Mix em up. Don't get stuck on one type of guy (or gal).

So. Thanks!

- Eric