Friday, February 01, 2013

A Realization and a Revelation

A few months ago, my dear friend Deborah Koren, her sister, and I were ruminating on just what makes us like certain movies, TV shows, and books, and what makes us either not care for or actively dislike others.  Was there a common denominator, we wondered?  A discernible pattern that could explain our tastes, maybe even predict whether or not we would like something.

We came to what we now fondly call the Realization.  There IS something for each of us that draws us to one story and repels us from another.  And every person has their own particular thing!

For me to really like a movie/show/book, I have to want to be friends with several characters.  Not all, necessarily, but if I have a desire to hang out with some of them, I'm going to like it, maybe even love it.  It holds true for every single story that I'm drawn to.  And if there are no characters I want to befriend?  I can recognize the story as well-told, well-acted, etc, but I am not going to like it, certainly not love it.  I am not going to want to watch or read it over and over.

Deborah, on the other hand, needs there to be at least one character that she would like to be.  Someone she identifies with or can imagine herself being.  Totally, completely different thing, and this explains so clearly why a movie that I adore will leave her cold, and something that has her all fired up will make me shrug my shoulders.

We started applying the Realization to everything we ran across, and it has not failed us yet.

Just in the last few days, however, we have had a Revelation that sharpens the Realization just a bit.  That helps us figure out not merely whether we will like a movie/show/book, but which characters we will like best.  It turns out that each of us is drawn to characters that share one particular trait with ourselves.

Me?  I am completely drawn to helpful people.  If someone needs help, and another character steps in to assist them, I'm going to like that helper.  If they turn the other way and don't help, I'm not going to like them at all.  Doesn't matter if they help willingly or with a mutter of annoyance, they just need to be helpful.  You line up every single character that I love unreservedly -- Sgt. Saunders, Angel, Sawyer, Wolverine, Thor, Han Solo, Agent Seeley Booth, Jim Craig, Willow Rosenberg, Heath Barkley -- every single one is helpful.  And I am all about helping!  If I can't be helpful or useful, I get kind of annoyed with the world.  (This doesn't mean I like every helpful character -- Jack Shepard comes to mind -- but every character I do like is helpful.)

Deborah, on the other hand, loves characters who protect others.  And she says that, as an older sister, she grew up with a great need to protect her younger sister and also anyone else who might need it.

We've shared the Realization with several friends, and so far, every single friend has figured out their own common denominator for stories, and been delighted to see how it explains what had previously seemed like crazy, random happenstances.

So now I'm sharing this with you, gentle readers.  If you feel like getting to know yourself a bit better, see if you can figure out what trait your liked movies/shows/books share.  What is it that draws you to the story, to the characters?  What repels you?  And what is the make-or-break reason you like or dislike a character?  If you have your own Realization and/or Revelation, please comment here, because I find this completely fascinating.

20 comments:

  1. TG and I talked about Combat! along those lines back a ways. I was trying to figure out (and still haven't) why, when I have been part of so many fandoms, I never before was interested in writing fanfic or drawing art or writing articles. But Combat! -- I think I have close to 40 pieces on my website. That's a lot of output.

    My 'realization' is that my favorite characters are outsiders: Caje, Spock, Spike, to name a few. I love people who are different from those around them; maybe it's my desire to explore differences or a want to be the one who "brings" them in...

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    1. Outsiders, eh? I can see that.

      My realization about helpers totally explains that, while I find Spike very sexy, I don't love him. He's not helpful!

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    2. And it was Buffy that actually kicked off this whole Realization, because I could not understand how Hamlette and I could love the same show so much -- but she didn't love the character of Buffy. In my mind, how could you love a television series as much as we both loved this show and not love the lead? And so we started asking each other questions, and pondering and puzzling, and, all of a sudden, the pieces started dropping into place, and it made sense how we could both love the same show but need/want different things out of it.

      And TEC4 -- I can see that! That fits. That is very cool.

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    3. That's right! I forgot it was Buffy that got us started on this whole thing. My goodness, Joss Whedon really sparks some deep thinking for us, doesn't he?

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  2. I think my realization will be something other than a character trait... I don't think I watch shows because I like the people. I haven't found a common thread yet.

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    1. Doesn't have to be character-oriented, I'm sure -- I'm betting for some people, it's a particular kind of plot element. I can't wait for you to figure one out! It's sure to be very intriguing.

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  3. This.. is fascinating!!! I will have to think about this... and get back to you! I would definitely love to figure out my common threads, and write a post about it!

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    1. Definitely comment here again when you figure it out! And I'd love to read a post from you on it, since it seems like we like a lot of the same books, but on some we are totally opposite on.

      Once you have your Realization, you'll also find that it helps you as a writer, because you'll be able to better figure out why certain story ideas resonate with you, even choose which to work on because you know you'll enjoy writing them a lot. As I look over all the stuff I've written, every single story has characters I want to be friends with and a helpful protagonist. Every. Single. One.

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    2. Okay, I'm having trouble with this, so I'm hoping you can clarify... does this revelation / realization apply to all books you like, or just books you love - like absolute favorites? Is this what separates whether you will like a book or dislike it, or whether you will love it vs. just being eh about it. I'm finding it hard to pin this down. Are there any questions you can think of that might help me get to the bottom of it?

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    3. Well, you just mentioned in another comment that you love NCIS because you love the characters, even though you hate crime shows. So I'm betting your answer is character-oriented.

      For me, it applies to all books/movies/shows, and is what will make me like or dislike them. The more I want to be friends (and the more other "buttons" it pushes for me), the more I will like it, or love it.

      It might help to type up a list of your 30 favorite books. Then see if there's a common theme, or if they all make you feel a certain way. I did this by staring at my shelves of TV shows. I thought at first that I had to have a male character I found attractive. And then I realized that didn't hold true for several shows. So I started looking for another theme, and thought it was that I liked watching people who are friends. And then I realized that no, what I like is people that I want to be friends with myself. So just kind of hypothesize, see if it fits everything (and if it's right, it will), and go from there. Is that helpful?

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    4. Thanks that does help!! When I get a spare moment I'll do this. I think you're right with the character theme, I just want to know if there's any other way I can narrow it down. We shall see!

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    5. Well, then try listing the types of characters in a bunch of different favorites -- anti-heroes, reluctant heroes, broody Byronic heroes, heroic heroes, damsels in distress, strong women, weak women, and so on. Or list character combinations, like leader and faithful followers, lovers, group of misfits, etc. That might help you find your common thread.

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    6. Oh I never even thought of doing that... I'm not sure I know enough about literature in the academic sense to be able to pick each of those types of characters out, but I will try with a few of my all time favorites.

      I made a list today of 30 or so favorites, and I'm almost positive I've got it figured out. I just want to test it and make sure. The only problem I'm having is reconciling what I think it is that I like in characters with my love for more plot driven stories, those that involve intrigue, mystery, adventure, or fantasy, and don't have a ton in the way of character development. These stories aren't totally without it, but that's not the focus. Still, I think my hypothesis might ring true in those cases as well, just perhaps not as loudly.

      I think what I'll do when I post up my "revelation" is also include a list of my favorite books, then maybe others will be able to see it as well, or think I'm out to lunch!

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    7. Can't wait to see what you come up with! If you watch movies and TV shows, test it on those too -- it should ring true for them as well.

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  4. It's here!!!!!! http://wxroz.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/the-common-thread/ I'm so excited!

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    1. Wonderful! I hope you'll find it useful fr a long time to come :-)

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  5. Well! You make a great point. I'm going to have to think about why it is certain characters or books connect with me now. Thanks for the link here. :)

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    1. Hooray! Can't wait for you to come to your own Realization -- please share, when you do. I'm really interested to see what yours is, since you and I like so very many of the same movies and books.

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  6. I'm gonna write a blog post about this. Already started my draft at work today. :-D Very interesting.

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    1. Kewel! I look forward to reading it.

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