Character is Story: Part I
Updated: Jan 31, 2021
Character is Story. In other words, every action from the protagonist/s moves the story forward to the end result. If you are creating a piece of life of a character, you are creating a story. Think of it this way...are you living your own story? Of course. And the following is your story:
Beginning - Birth
Middle - Afterbirth
End - Death
Sequel? - Afterlife
The difference between a story and a life is that powerful stories generally contain one main throughline that propels the story forward in an organized fashion. The throughline is the main objective of the character. It is the motive behind every action and every decision in the story. Even the best movies ever written have throughlines for protagonists that remain the same from *inciting incident to end credits. Simplify the process of determining the throughline before you do anything else. A complex character can be written from the most fundamentally basic throughlines. The video provides examples...
slay the dragon/save the world
Aristotle defined character as the sum of an individual's actions. The throughline supports the actions of the character. Therefore, in order to understand your character's throughline is to understand how to guide your story. Why? Because character is story!
William H. Macy visited my company's acting class and told us that the "throughline" was a b.s. tool that he never used. He exclaimed that he only focused on doing, not thinking, while he was creating a character. He told us that he did only what action was directly in front of him. He is an impulsive actor. His performances are generated organically, and his accent, posture, lines, costume, lighting, musical score, composition in the frame, and so on all contribute to his character. But he's an actor. He doesn't need to worry about throughline because good writers have provided the words and circumstances that support the throughline. A solid framework gives actors like this the chance to showcase their work at its finest because they can create within the lines. Write a good throughline of action so that the actors who play your parts don't have to create what isn't on the page!
*inciting incident = the event that changes the status quo of the character in a way that will cause them to seek the lifechanging goal that moves the story forward.