Storytelling goes back ages. Even though movies now are full of special effects, CGI and modern technology, the foundation of film – telling a story – is as old as civilization.
One of the most common theories behind why we, as a species, tell stories, is that these stories serve as a way to pass down wisdom and teach knowledge to children.
Regardless of a story”s origin, storytelling is an undeniable aspect of who we are and how we learn, and thousands of years later we can see that unfold in the massive movie theaters of today.
Movies tell stories in a unique way because of their visual components. However, there are a number of important components to tell a story, especially film, the right way.
The first and perhaps most crucial element, is writing characters that can connect with an audience.
Think of the last bad movie you saw – not just cheesy, but the last really bad movie you saw. One of the defining characteristics of a bad movie is one-dimensional characters. Take the new James Bond movie “Spectre,” for example.
Not only does the entire plot boil down a 40-something misogynist going on an alcohol fueled rampage, but it also turns Bond into a one-dimensional character who does nothing but drink and flirt with women. The movie (spoilers) ends with Bond shooting a helicopter out of the sky with a 9 mm pistol, which, besides being a massive violation of the laws of physics, is completely pointless.
Characters are an essential part of any good story and while Bond may be a classic one, this specific movie wrote his character in a way that just didn”t work well for the film.
Audience members grow a connection with the characters, and therefore, a good story has characters who are not only real, but also change and develop throughout the course of the film.
The last really good movie I saw? “Casino Royale.” Made only nine years ago, the same actor, Daniel Craig, plays James Bond. Many of the same crew members made the film and the movie is part of the same series. Yet “Casino Royale” is infinitely more interesting than “Spectre,” as the audience actually sees Bond change and evolve as the plot unfolds.
When the audience first meets him he”s cocky, not very stylish, and prone to mistakes. Yet, we grow connected to him by watching him slowly fall in love with Vesper (Eva Greene), someone who isn”t just some one-night-stand but a well-written character who is genuinely good for Bond. The film prompts the audience to become excited to see Bond change his ways and the audience even thinks he is going to become a man that is actually liked.
This kind of connection created between Bond and the audience only make it even more heart-breaking when Vesper betrays Bond and he turns to bitterness and anger to cope. The film is a sobering reminder of the dangers of investing your emotions in a character, but it also is a great example of the importance of writing a character well.
While the most recent Bond movie portrayed Bond in a way that didn”t foster a connection with the audience, “Casino Royale” makes Bond relatable and engaging in a way that only enhances the plot.
Next time you tell a story, or make a movie, or even just talk to someone, think about why they should care about a character. That means showing a character”s faults and how others respond to those faults. People want to watch movies that not only have characters that are human and relatable, but they also want to watch these characters grow.
Sam Balas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org