Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Characters Can Change a World

How amazing that two people can lead nearly the same life circumstances and end up with different outcomes.

The idea struck me after hearing a move line, "There's things you can control and things you can't" from the movie, RED

Today we will look at two female characters, one from a fairy tale and one from an historical fiction to observe what caused the two characters to end up with completely different outcomes.

The two ladies are Cinderella and Scarlet Ohara

Cinderella begins her story as a daughter of a wealthy man. Her mother has passed away and so her father marries a woman with two daughters. Shortly after the marriage, Cinderella's father dies, leaving her to the mercies of her stepmother. 

Scarlet Ohara begins her story as a daughter of a wealthy man. War breaks out disrupting her routine of attending social events and entertaining hordes of men swooning after her. No longer the center of attention she marries the first man still at home, stealing him from sister.

Both plummeted from their wealthy life of ease to something less desirable. 

But what each did with the situation brings the distinct differences in their respective stories. 

We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control our response, which can change the outcome.

Here is a description of the two lady characters:

Cinderella is a shy, glass half full type of personality. She doesn't like the chores she must do, but has willingly worked with and accepted her circumstances, doing the best she can. She respects the dictatorial stepmother and even tries to please the selfish stepsisters, hoping to form a true sister relationship.

Scarlett is a determined, mostly selfish, she can-and-will-make-any-situation-better type of personality. She never does anything beneath her station unless pressed into a corner. Unfortunately, she finds herself in the corner too often and has to help birth a baby, run a business, wear morning clothes, and hide a dead soldier. The only one she ever wants to form a true relationship with is Ashley, no one else is worth her sincere efforts.

Now lets see how their personalities directed their outcomes.

Cinderella's days drag on until one day the king announces a ball for his son. He invites all the single young ladies of the kingdom. Remembering her days of wealth, Cinderella dreams of going to the ball. She doesn't seem to view it as an opportunity to dance with the prince, but dreams of dressing up, riding in a carriage, meeting and talking with other people, and dancing. And if she were to happen to dance with the prince, well that would be a wonderful bonus. Inspired by her stepmother's promise to allow her to go, Cinderella works hard to complete an impossible list of chores. Due to interruptions, she does not finish in time.

Desperate to lavish in wealth again, Scarlett marries Rhett, the only man who can afford to provide the wealth her heart hungers for. Scarlett's selfishness grows with each item Rhett gives while her heart resolves to one day marry Ashley. Each time Ashley comes home from the war Scarlett confesses her love to him despite how her words could hurt his wife, Melanie. Her desperation to one day marry Ashley intensifies with each meeting. Melanie dies and Ashley finally tells Scarlett he only ever truly loved Melanie.

Both situations are hopeless. Cinderella can' go to the ball, and Scarlett can't have Ashley.

* Now comes the reward for a story life of responses.

Cinderella, trapped, yet doing her best to make the best of her situation. Scarlett, trapped, yet doing her best to have what she wants no matter who it hurts.

Cinderella looks out the window and sees the carriage pulling away. She has nothing appropriate to wear, no transportation, no hope to get to the ball. Until . . . POOF her fairy godmother appears. Tah dah, the fairy godmother, who has been watching Cinderella's situation and ,  given the most beautiful gown, shoes, and carriage, but it comes with a glitch. Be home by midnight. 

Scarlett looks out the window from where she stood with Ashley and realizes she has been mistaken all along. Ashley never loved her. Rhett did. She wanted to kindle her relationship with Rhett. Yes, she must run home and confess her love to Rhett and everything will be fine. She must hurry and put all propriety aside. 

* With grace and beauty, Cinderella enters the ballroom as the flawless beauty she is both inside and out. She captures the attention of all in attendance. The prince dances with her, they fall in love, the clock strikes midnight and she must leave his embrace. 

Eager to step back on the pedestal of class, Scarlett falls from grace and beauty, sacrificing all propriety by running and calling out, as no woman from her stature should, back to her home. She desperately searches for Rhett in their empty home. No one praises her, smiles at her appearance. She finds him packing. Struck by the harsh reality of losing Rhett, too, Scarlett throws herself at the only man who could save her.  He is repulsed.

* Again all seems lost for both Cinderella and Scarlett

At this point, the two women both do something contrary to their personalities. 

The prince goes to each home in the village, searching for his true love with nothing but a glass slipper. He goes to Cinderella's house and is only shown the two step sisters. To remain shy and accepting of her situation would destroy any chances to be with her love. She boldly comes forth, asks to try on the slipper and is discovered to be the one the prince has been searching for. They live happily ever after.

Rhett walks down the grand staircase, shunning Scarlett's words. Tired of her antics and convinced he will never have her true love he ignores her pleadings. He defiantly walks out the door stopping only to say the only words which could have any affect on her. At this point Scarlett stops. She no longer goes after what she wants. She allows him to leave, saying she will think about it another day. 

*In the movie The Prince of Egypt. Moses says the following words to the Hebrew people to encourage them to fight to leave Egypt, "They may hurt our bodies, but they cannot take our souls." 

Two characters like Cinderella and Scarlett may have similar circumstances, but the end result may be totally different based on the character's heart, their true response. 

When you write your story, first take a moment and write ten emotional words to capture the personality of each significant character. Then hold true to that description throughout the story. Earlier in this post I described Cinderella and Scarlett. They both stayed true to those descriptors throughout the story.

What emotional words best describe your MC?


This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary Christian fiction with a focus on the homeless population and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wow, Mary! That was such a great breakdown of those two characters. So thought out.

While I understand Scarlett staying true to her character, I always wanted her to grow more. I wanted the fairy tale ending. I wanted her personality to soften. Do you think that could/should happen in a story?

Mary Vee Writer said...

Well her character does kind of break the mold, Sherrinda. And yet for some strange reason we like her. She was mean to everyone, but she was a fighter.

What I think most people feel is that the story didn't end. Because we don't know if she ever went after Rhett again and captured his heart. This would require the softening you mentioned. The question is beyond the readers ability to solve.

I don't think this unsolvable ending could be done successful too often. I think about the movie, Cast Away. The writers were stuck. The girl of his dreams, the one who helped him survive married someone else. But the writers resolve the issue with him returning the one unopened package to a really nice gal. Ahh, hope. We feel good about the ending.

Heather Marsten said...

Wow, wonderful analysis of these two characters. I agree, character is not only overt actions but the attitudes of the heart. I wonder what the sequel of Gone with the Wind would have entailed.

Your question about what emotional words best describe the MC in my story startled me. I'm writing a memoir so I'm the MC. The words that would describe me at the beginning of my story are far different from where I am at the end. Made me realize that with novels, the characters also need to have the opportunity to change their focus.

For me at the beginning I would be shy, timid, afraid, abused, hurt, suicidal. But at the end, instead of being a victim I became a victor, embracing life, and loving God so there is joy, peace, security, happiness.

What a wonderful post!

Jeanne T said...

I never thought about this before, Mary. What a great analysis of these two memorable women! I'm coming back to this one to look it over again.

Let's see, an emotional word for my heroine--passionate, compassionate, pragmatic (in some situations).

Well done, my friend!

Susan Anne Mason said...

What a thought-provoking post! Never would have thought to compare those two characters!

It's funny when you read about Scarlett on paper, she seems a character no one would like, yet I did like her. Maybe we saw through to her real heart underneath.

Thanks, Mary!


Mary Vee Writer said...

I always enjoy hearing about your memoir. What an adventure to write one!

To be startled with the question hopefully helped you take another step in your writing. I think your descriptors for then and now are wonderful.

Happy writing!

Mary Vee Writer said...

So hoping you are having fun at the MBT retreat and learning lots!!

Are these the descriptors for your latest character, the one you are devising and planning at the retreat?

Good describers. Thanks for stopping by:)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I agree.

I think the draw factor is Scarlett's persistence. Never willing to give up. She fought to get Ashley until the day he finally convinced her he truly loved Melanie. She ran a business, she found food at a time when there wasn't hardly any. I think these fighting components out weigh her negative and make us like her.

Ruth Douthitt said...

Terrific character analysis. I always get so much insight from this blog! My MC is the only child of a King. The fate of the kingdom rests on his shoulders. No pressure, right? Yet Peter is dutiful, grateful, and willing. He will be tempted to give up and give in, so hopefully, in the end, he will endure.

I find it fun to create these characters who are Christ-like because it only reveals how perfect and precious Jesus is in comparison. He was tempted, yet did not sin.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Peter sounds like a fun character.
Sounds like you have a lot of fun with your characters:) Thanks for stopping by today!