Thursday, August 25, 2005

I Will Now Stand Around and Talk About My Character Issues.

So, as I believe I mentioned before, I've been watching the final season of Buffy on DVD. And I've been enjoying it; there are some really great episodes early in the season. But, nine episodes in, I'm starting to remember one of the reasons why it kind of annoyed me the first time around. I never, ever, ever want to watch another scene where the characters stand around and talk about their Issues. (And, oh, man, do I know that there are going to be more of them.) OK, introducing a psych-major vampire to head-shrink your main character in insightful, funny ways between bouts of fighting... that works, if you do it right, because it's amusing and clever. But if you're gonna do something like that, TV, writers, milk it for all you can, because unless your character is actually in therapy, it should be the last bit of head-shrinking you do for, oh, at least a season.

Don't get me wrong. I love shows that give us insights into characters' psyches. That's one of the best things you can do in a story. But there is a certain amount to be said for the old writerly adage of "show, don't tell," and there's a great deal to be said for a little thing called subtlety. One of the themes of the season is that Buffy is feeling isolated by her power? Show us that. There are lots of ways to do it: Write her scenes where she struggles on her own to make decisions, let the actor bring out that emotion with her expression and body language, give us some camera-angles that emphasize her aloneness. Whatever. Long speeches about the loneliness of power? Not really the best way to go, especially when they come off as self-pitying, rather than as evoking our pity. Which, y'know, often tends to happen when you have people talking about their problems rather than just having them.

Oh, and writers? So, let's say you have some interesting insights into a character's romantic relationships. That's great! But, working these into the story by having someone basically come up and say things like, "So, I've had some interesting insights into your romantic relationships" is really not the most sophisticated and effective method, y'know?

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