Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

Similar Deviations
Check Out The Official PLZ Guide Archives Group!
:pointr: :iconplzguidearchive: :pointl:


Chat with the Admins HERE!

Last Reviewed: 1/25/15


Chief Wiggum




Hans Moleman









Mr. Burns

Ned Flanders

Nelson Muntz


Sideshow Bob

Ralph Wiggum



TV Show Emotes

TV Show Stamps

 PLZ Guide © Casey-Star
Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.

This is official PlzCatalog group's PLZ listing. Visit our page to find more lists.
If you know more or spot any errors pleasesend us a note or comment below.
Check out fast version here.

































Mr. Burns:




Ned Flanders:



Other characters:











Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.

CheeseLovingChester asked me to compile a list of all the Panic! at the Disco covers with download links. Well I downloaded most of mine with this YouTube to mp3 converter: But I do have links to all of the videos I got mine from. The bolded songs will be ones that are actual download links from my Mediafire account that you won't have to convert with the website I gave above to get the audio. I cut those specific songs myself so that's why I why it's already straight to download. I would put all the covers up on my Mediafire account but I can only upload so many MB on the free account. I tried to get the best quality I could without any extra stuff like the band talking or the crowd screaming. If any of the links don't work or I forgot any that you know of, let me know! ENJOY!

Across The Universe:…
All My Life:…
Baby One More Time:…
Billie Jean:…
Boss DJ:…
Broadcast Quality (Brendon's Screamo):…
Careless Whisper:…
Carry On My Wayward Son:…
Chicago Is So Two Years Ago/ The Pros & Cons Of Breathing:…
Dancing In The Dark:…
The Dog Days Are Over:…
Don't Stop Believin':…
Eleanor Rigby:…
First Try:…
Friends Theme:…
Fuck Her Gently:…
Gin & Juice:…
Girlfriend In A Coma:…
The Good Life:…
How Soon Is Now?:…
I Believe In A Thing Called Love:…
The Immigrant Song:…
In My Eyes:…
Karma Police:…
Killer Queen:…
Let's Get It On:…
Personal Jesus:…
Pumped Up Kicks:…
Rolling In The Deep:…
Round Here:…
Science Fiction/Double Feature:…
Skid Row:…
Slow Motion:…
Super Mario Brothers Theme:…
Three Little Birds:…
Tonight Tonight:…
True Love:…
Unchained Melody:…
The Weight:…
What's My Age Again?:…
(What's So Funny About) Peace Love & Understanding:…
White Christmas:…
You're Beautiful:…
Your Body Is A Wonderland:…
  • Mood: Peaceful
  • Listening to: The Black Parade
Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.

In the first part of this workshop, I talked about how to create compelling characters.  This part will be about what drives them and how to royally ruin their day so you can entertain your readers.  compelling characters are useless without a story.  This is where motivation and conflict come in.


What is it?  A state of being that exists when needs or wants are not being fulfilled and the desire to have those needs or wants satisfied.

On a basic level, humans have needs.  I hope we are familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs because that is what I'm about to draw from.  If not, here's a link:… .  On the bottom rung, we have physiological needs that must be met for basic survival: breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion.  Aside from sex, that is that one can be debated all day and night if necessary (not here, though; take it to the forum).  Once you have a roof over your head, a full belly and a place to tinkle, you can move on to the rest.  But even basic physiological needs can turn into a story, or at least a vignette.  The rest of the graph, while some folks may consider them needs, they're more fun to write about as wants.

When all of our basic physical and some of the safety needs of MHON are met, people get comfortable.  Then they get bored.  Generalization?  Maybe.  What we want is always more interesting than what we need.

Example:  When my Bonneville died, I needed a new car.  It technically didn't have to be a NEW car, but at least one that was new to me.  I needed a car to get around town; the bus was not an option, especially where I was working at the time.  I was on the car lot with my folks and they pointed out a Crown Victoria.  Safe, huge, affordable.  But I saw a white Cadillac, a 1992 Sedan Deville.  I had to have it.  I wanted it in the worst way.  I couldn't afford it but I didn't care, it was what I wanted.  I loved that car until it died two years later.  I would have been perfectly fine with the Crown Vic but I didn't want it.  I didn't need the Cadillac.  I wanted it.  I was motivated by this superficial desire to buy a car I could not afford and ended up being a lemon.  If I had done the practical thing, I'd still be driving that Crown Vic.

Does this make an interesting story?  No.  It illustrates the difference between a need and a want.

Anyway, think about characters that come from privilege:  soap operas and the Kardashians leap to mind.  They have their physiological and safety-related needs met ten times over.  So what's left?  That turns the other needs in MHON into wants and to a point, obsessions, when their wants aren't met.  Of course, "regular" people go through this, too, but when people have unlimited resources to chase their obsessions, they are only limited by their imaginations about what they will do to get what they want.

Veruca Salt didn't need the goose who laid golden eggs.  She wanted one.  And she wanted it now.  See where it got her?

Motivation not only can be more it SHOULD be more than "what does my character want".  That's where you should start for sure, but with some active thought put into it, you can take it further.  

What does my character want to avoid?  
What does my character want to accomplish?
What does my character want to learn?
What does my character want to buy?
What does my character want to destroy?

So what?  Try the same concept but with who, when, where, why and how.  

Who does my character want to avoid?
When does my character want to accomplish (something)?
Where does my character want to learn?
Why does my character want to buy (something)?
How does my character want to destroy (something)?

By asking a simple question, a plot can start to take shape.  To see it all the way to the end, continue to ask "why" until you run out of answers.  That is how you get to the bottom of things, not only in your stories but in life.

Now that we've asked the questions based on your character's wants, how do we throw a monkey wrench into the works?  Conflict.


We're familiar with the five major types of conflict, oui?  Please say oui.

Man Vs. Man
Man Vs. Nature
Man Vs. Self
Man Vs. Society
Man Vs. God/Supernatural

Two other "newer" types include:

Man Vs. Machine/Technology
Man Vs. Destiny

We've played with these before (…).  Without conflict, there is no real reason to read the story.  We want to see someone overcome their problems, even if it's them struggling with their own demons.  I wrote a story once where there was no conflict.  I didn't notice until danielzklein pointed it out to me and I was forever changed.  I can't remember what the story was but he said it was boring and bullshit because there was no conflict.  I remember feeling insulted until I realized he was right.  

Conflict is something that makes it difficult/impossible for your character to accomplish his goal, which is to fulfill their motivation:
:bulletblue:  Your character wants to reconcile their relationship with their estranged mother?  Well, her new husband doesn't want you coming anywhere near her.  
:bulletblue:  Your character wants to get her book published?  She's got 300 rejection letters stapled to the wall by her computer.  
:bulletblue:  Your character wants to go on a road trip from Seattle to Miami?  Not with a car that just blew the transmission.  

Conflict causes your desire to fulfill the motivation to become stronger.  No man's gonna keep me from my mother!  Random House doesn't want my book, eh?  We'll see about that!  I'll get to Miami even if I have to steal a car to get there!  

The last damn thing anyone wants to read is a character that curls up in a ball and hides from the world when they don't get what they want.  You want to read about a character that does whatever it takes for them to get what they want.  We want to see what your characters are made of; we want to see someone succeed against all odds.


The following is said to help, not hurt or anger.  There comes a time when we have to get real with ourselves because the less honest we are with ourselves, the longer it will take to make progress.  So if you find yourself becoming upset with where I'm about to go next, ask yourself why, and then take a look at how you're treading water in the kiddie pool when you could be surfing with sharks.

And yes, it does pertain to this workshop.

Your characters are dear to you.  I understand this.  Some of you might not be able to bear the idea of anything bad ever happening to them because that would mean YOU were the one who hurt them, not some evil predator or invisible entity bent on ruining their day.  Three words:  GET OVER IT.

These characters are not real people.  You cannot hang out with them at the mall or the bar.  You control them, they don't control you.  You are in charge of their fate.  They are not writing the story, YOU ARE.  They are at your beck and call, they do what you say.  Don't be the writer who says their characters are out of control and do "what they want".  This is simply not the case.  YOU are in control.  They don't exist.

That said, it's okay to love your characters.  It's okay for them to be dear to your heart.  You've spent a lot of time fleshing them out and maybe "they" even have fans.  But I'm here to tell you that it's also okay to hurt them.  Sometimes they have to die.  Whether they are a main or supporting character, the threat of death, dismemberment, loss of freedom, etc, should be a very real motivation in your character's life and in turn, the story.  Would I ever kill Angie or Nina?  If I had to, yes.  

Example:  I recently read a story here where the main character sacrificed their life so a loved one could live.  They did it without flinching.  They ended the story with the protagonist dying not as a martyr but as a hero.  To be honest, the story could not have ended any other way and been as powerful.  It was masterful.  They understood that though this character had to die, they died for a reason, and a good reason.  You know what?  This writer can make another character to love and start the process all over again.


And I highly recommend you do for one major reason you will have a treasure chest of motivations and their conflicts to choose from.  How many?  Between 50 and 60.  Boom.  It's pretty involved and it will totally be on your honor to finish it showing them to me is up to you but I will take a look at anything you send.

For each "need" of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, come up with a motivation to want and need each "need".  After you do that, think about which conflict is represented; some might have more than one conflict.  You don't need to have a character in mind to do this.  Just concentrate on getting the hang of what it takes to motivate someone to do something to get what they need or want.  The resulting stories might end up as vignettes or full pieces.

EXAMPLE:  One of Maslow's physiological needs is excretion.  Excretion can be pee, poop, tears, vomit and to a dark extent, ejaculation.

:bulletred:  The main character finished, after working on it all day, a Dr. Pepper Double Gulp from 7-11 before leaving work.  Their commute home is a simple five mile drive down the highway so even though they could have taken a whiz before leaving, they knew they'd be home soon enough.  The NEED TO PEE didn't occur until they found themselves stuck in standstill gridlock that the radio says will be at least two hours long because of a lane closure due to a fatal accident.
:bulletgreen:  Conflict = man vs society

:bulletred:  The main character hates his overbearing jerk of a boss.  The boss asks the MC to take his Bentley to be detailed on the MC's time.  In a show of passive-aggressiveness, the MC takes the car to be washed and detailed and after he parks it in the boss' designated space, he pees all over the floorboards of the backseat.  With this one, the build-up of resentment and unhappiness the MC feels toward the boss should be enough to justify his desire to pee in his boss' car.
:bulletgreen:  Conflict = man vs man

To wrap up part two and get you thinking about part three, here's a very early (or very late) birthday present...

:star: Begin with drama and end with a moment of change.  :star:

There.  Your excuse about not knowing how to start a story is gone forever.  Now go be amazing.  I'll see you for part three before the end of the month.

:flame: :flame:  Kalen-Bloodstone was amazing enough to condense my yaddayaddayadda into something instantly useful that you should all check out!…

Edit 6-27-2012
When I have the last part drawn up, I will have it here for you all to see.  Once that's done, I will be turning this workshop into a deviation for any future reference.  I hope you all have been enjoying it so far!

part 3:…
Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.

:star: :star: :star: NEW VIDEO!  Planning vs Not Planning

When I'm looking through books in a brick and mortar store, I flip to the middle of a book for some reason and then put it on the shelf as if I ever had any intention of buying it (I don't know what compels me to buy a book anymore, to be honest).  HOWEVER...

When I am here at deviantART, our supercool scrolling thumb feature allows me to see the first sentence of a story and make the determination on whether or not I want to continue reading.  That said... I don't read much around here.  


Boy, rhetoric is fun.  We know why.

I don't judge a book by its cover but goddamn I will judge a story by its first line.  It's called a "hook" for a reason.  No one wants to read your story if your opening sentence is

She heard a bird chirp outside her window; slowly, she opened her eyes and yawned, the winged animal acting as her alarm clock.

Nothing there to compel me to continue.  Next.

I am a salmon.  If you don't reel me in, you don't get to eat.  Get it?

What does it take to hook someone in?

Suggestions I've found:
:bulletred:  Use strong verbs (…).
:bulletred:  Show your subject.
:bulletred:  Keep it short.
:bulletred:  Be specific.  
:bulletred:  Be dynamic.
:bulletred:  Move the plot.

For a hook to be effective, it should do at least one of the following:
:bulletblue:  appeal to the readers’ emotions
:bulletblue:  raise questions about what will happen
:bulletblue:  reveal something that isn’t anticipated
:bulletblue:  indicate that something is about to change

Some of my favorite opening lines from my own work:
Chocolate never meant to hurt anyone. -- Nanowrimo 2009
I had sex with Rob for the first time on Thanksgiving. --…
Zeke lifted Nina’s dress up off over her head. -- FFM 10
Big Ron held a locker key in his hand.   --…

Those use some (but not all) of the suggestions listed above.  Not all of my opening lines from my other stories follow the suggestions and could have been revised and might in the future if I choose to move forward with them.  But these hooked me in to old stories I wrote years/months ago.  I'm still learning, just like all of you.

So what's the prompt already?!

Glad you asked.  

Write 12 opening lines using the suggestions above.  
Then take one of those opening lines and write a story.
Save the rest for another time.  You'll thank yourself then.
No more than 2500 words.  Any genre, any POV.  
Due at the end of the month.  Send the finished piece in a note here or at my main page.

Why 12?

Practice.  It's all about practice.  You can keep the other 11 to yourself if you don't want to share them; it's up to you.  Besides, everything at this group is built on the honor system.  I can't make you do anything.  You have to want to do it.  If that means you just do the one to satisfy the prompt requirements or you do yourself a favor and do the rest, it's up to you and your dedication to your continued improvement as a writer.

But what about characters?  Setting?  Theme?  Derp!

Use pronouns.  Be vague if you have to.  I never said this was a one-shot deal where you had to get it right the first time.  Don't overthink things that don't need to be overthought.  Start somewhere.  Read the recommended links below and craft it together.  Concentrate on the first sentence first.  Concentrate on words you want to get across and create a story around it.  Try something new.  Push yourself.  If you're freaking out at this, YOU'RE DOING IT RIGHT.

I'm here if you need me.

Recommended reading:…………

Here are my 12 (I came up with 24 just to be safe):…

:star:  theWrittenRevolution featured Scream and Word-Smiths this month -- thewrittenrevolution.deviantar….  Show both groups some community love :love:
Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.

Colors Contest

Journal Entry: Mon Jan 14, 2013, 6:52 AM


Update:  The Colors Contest Results are Finally In!!!

OK, yes, it has been quite awhile since this contest ended.  There have complications outside the current DLD administration's control which lead to some of the delay - the rest of the time: procrastination.  :blush: In any case, better late than never, right?

Anyway, here are the winners:

1st Place: 

The color of betrayal by jamberry-song

2nd Place:

BarracudaI have heard mistaken minds
say if you offer her your hand,
Blue in kind will bring no harm.
I have come to tell you this is false.
Listen closely now, my friend:
Blue is sharper, longer, leaner,
than Red on Red’s best day.
She will take your albatross
and slit it open in the night.
Blue is dressed to a fine point:
silk sleeves and noble crest,
predator-sleek with azure-spine.
She dares and she is tempting, I admit,
but you have not known Blue as I.
You see,
Blue can cut.
She can sting.
She can weave and dance and cut again,
and when she has finished
she is deathly still.
Blue feels no remorse;
she won’t reflect as you or I.
She drops and flows
and darts and thrusts
and when you go to grasp her
she has slipped and sliced your palm.
Take heed, my anxious friend,
you are her prey of choice.
She hides within the sun.
You take her in, you think you’ve won,
but venomous and silent
she dissolves inside your depths,

Barracuda by Sigma-Echo-Seven

3rd Place:

S.A.D. by toxic-nebulae

Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to all the contestants.  Again, on behalf of DailyLitDeviations, we apologize for the delay, and we appreciate the effort you put into many wonderful submissions to this contest.


Pick a color, any color and write about it. Prose, poetry or stream of consciousness; it doesn't matter.


:bulletblack: You must use only one color when writing your piece
:bulletblue: Entries must include a link to this journal in the comments section
:bulletred: Prose can be no more than 2000 words and no less than 250 words.
:bulletgreen: Poetry can be no more than 75 lines including line breaks and no fewer than 3 lines
:bulletpurple: The piece must clearly define the color you have chosen, but does not have to name it directly
:bulletwhite: You must name the color you have chosen in the comments section
:bulletorange: You do not have to be a member of the group Daily-Lit-Deviations to enter, but we welcome you if you wish to join us
:bulletyellow: This contest is open to ever member of deviantART excluding judges.
:bulletblack: Please post your entry at Daily-Lit-Deviations in the Colors Contest folder.
:bulletblue: This does not have to be a new entry. Just update your comments section please.
:bulletred: One entry per person.


All Winners

-Features from

3rd place

500 points
3 month sub
1 month sub

2nd place

700 points
6 month sub

1st place

1200 points
1 yr sub
3 month sub (or applicable points)
Poetry commission from TwilightPoetess, BloodshotInk
A critique of one piece of your choice by LiliWrites

We are always accepting other prize donations. Please note VertigoArt if you are interested.


The contest will run from the date this is posted until February 28th.

CSS Template by kuschelirmel-stock
Brushes by xinstinctive and ThaSprout
Design by LiliWrites
Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.

Fourth Month.  
Four weeks.  
Four stories.  
Four thousand words.  
For real.

:w00t: All prompts are live :w00t:

Here's what's gonna happen.  I will list four prompts, one for each week of this month.  Once a new week starts, the prompt for that week will be posted.  Since I've been rather word-count heavy lately, we're taking it back to Flash Fiction.  Because the prompts are going to be fairly simple compared to the past, I will be attaching a difficulty to each one, mostly to help you avoid leaping toward to most obvious initial ideas.  Read on...


April 3-8:  A character does not want to go home.  
Difficulty -- there's no abuse waiting for them when they get there.

April 9-15:  Something they believed in their whole life has been a lie.
Difficulty -- no religion allowed.

April 16-22:  A character has a crush on someone.
Difficulty -- it's from a photograph of someone they've never met.
Double Difficulty -- no celebrities/famous people of any sort.

April 23-29:  Someone gets more than they bargained for.
Difficulty - -they've just eloped.

We're here to succeed
:bulletred: Each story should be between 1000 and 1100 words.  
:bulletred: They can be full stories or scenes, either is fine.  
:bulletred: Ideally, all four should be finished and linked to each other in your artist comments.
:bulletred: 1st person POV is acceptable in any or all stories.  No strings attached.

If you would like to write each story and send them to me as you finish, that is fine.  If you want to wait until the end of the month and send them all to me, that is fine.  I don't have a preference as it pertains to when I get these stories as long as you submit them as deviations and send me the links in a note here or at my personal page.

For my lovely whiners:  Do you have to write all four?  Why wouldn't you?  This isn't a "pick one and write it" situation, there are four stories to write this month as opposed to one big one.  That means four new awesome stories in your gallery instead of one.  That means more exposure for your work, more chances to kick ass.  Isn't that cool?  I think it is.  And it'll be an easy 4000 words that you know you can do.

If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to ask, either here or in a note.

So let's get crackin'.
Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.

Daily Lit Deviations for December 5th , 2011

We are proud to feature today's Daily Literature Deviations!

You can show your support by :+favlove:ing this News Article.</b>

Please comment and :+fav: the features and congratulate the artists!

:pointr: For all of the featured artists: If you receive a DD for one

of your pieces featured by DLD please note damina.</b>

We will include you and your piece in a special recognition news article. :pointl:


Featured by: LadyofGaerdon

Full of raw power and thick emotion, the words

unfold with a gripping pace and highly emotive imagery,

and an execution that gives just enough away. Truly an achievement.</sub>

Featured by: thetaoofchaos

Sentimentality is at its irresistible best and most

profound when it is expressed for love of innocence,

to which this poem wonderfully attests.


Suggested by: monstroooo

Featured by: shebledgreenink

Sooner or later.Once upon a time, I breathed in innocence and exhaled simplicity. I remember it fondly.  
I remember my favorite grass-stained overalls with the light blue butterfly embroidered on the pocket, my bare feet on the damp grass, the feeling of the wind, it tasted like sweet perfection, flying through every single strand of hair on my head as I chased the fireflies that danced in the evening air. I remember the old, rusty swing sets, and how if I got up in the air high enough I could touch the exact place in the cloudless sky where the earth itself curved, though no one ever believed it. Back then, I remember laughing every second just because there was once a time where optimism wasn't a challenge. Back when real friends weren't an endangered species, but a bubbling well, filled to the rim; when family was a single unit, not split into shards; when the biggest worry I had was people stealing my favorite scarlet-colored crayon after I dashed to the potty. Simple.  
And t

"Sooner or Later" by :devdetchedindreams:

From the suggester: "It's sweet and nostalgic

and quite sad at times, with some lovely imagery to light it up."

Featured by: SilverInkblot

A story in so few words is difficult to pull off,

but it's done very well in this six word story.

Featured by: Kitri-du-Lac

The Shadow ManLies emit from your mouth like clouds rolling across the sky, leaving a trail of tear soaked land behind them. The destruction and damage you've caused is nothing compared to the anguish you've made me feel. Yet still, you dance upon the hilltops, calling out to the moon like a blood thirsty hound.
You're the bartender in sleazy pubs, offering people more and more of their own demise for a fixed price. Of course you have to make a profit out of it; otherwise it wouldn't be half as fun.  Your face is distorted beyond recognition as you offer someone another cigarette. To your delight, they accept, and you grin with mirth as they smoke away their souls.
You're the taxman on a drizzly afternoon, walking up and down the cobblestone streets, searching for anything you can suck dry. Knocking away on the pensioner's door, you bite the hand that feeds you. Enough is never what it seems, as your bloated pockets make room for more. They've already stopped using their heat and water, th

"The Shadow Man" by :devshari4minipigs:

The violent imagery surrounding this piece is impressively formed

together to create a narrative. It is full of hatred,

perfectly capturing the intensity of such an emotion.

For more information, including how to suggest a Deviation

to be featured, please visit us at DailyLitDeviations.

Thanks so much for supporting the lit community and this project!

~ The DailyLitDeviations Team ~

Prepared by: SilverInkblot

Daily Literature Deviations is a group that is dedicated to bringing literature to the forefront of the deviantART community. We attempt to accomplish this by daily featuring Literature artists from around the community that deserve the recognition, but are not getting it.

Each day we will feature 5 deviations from the Literature categories in a News Article. In order to support the artists that we feature, we ask that you :+fav: the news article as well as check out the individual pieces. We understand that each day you may not be able to check out each and every one of the pieces. We just ask that you make an attempt to help support the growing Literature community and these artists.
Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.

:star: Mario Kart 8

:star: Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze

:star: Super Mario 3D World introduces... the cat suit!
And Peach is finally a playable character in the New Mario Series:

:star: Pikmin 3 brings new Pikmin and characters

:star: Super Smash Brothers 4 gets new character reveals:

Wii Fit Trainer :o

Animal Crossing Villager

Megaman :excited:

For more information on Smash brothers, visit the site:
Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.

Here it is, as promised.  Keep in mind that even though I do not have formal training as a writer, these are the things I keep in mind when writing my characters.  I have had varying levels of success here at dA and you are free to use my ideas or not.  I'm not claiming to know it all, the below is not gospel and it's not guaranteed.  But you never know.  

Comments are appreciated, haters are welcome.  

How to Create Compelling Characters

I can't speak for everyone but I read for compelling characters.  If the characters really move me, the plot can be as thin as it wants; though it's not always easy to have characters carry the whole thing if nothing is happening.  

Where do we find compelling characters?  In books, of course, but they're obviously not confined to books.  Compelling characters in movies are just as important.  Unless you're doing improv, plays and movies require scripts, and that's where we come in.  So let's not split hairs because books and movies are important to what – being entertained and entertaining others.

To illustrate the differences between character-driven plots, action-driven plots and a combination of both, here are three movies from the Coen Brothers:

The Big Lebowski is most definitely character-driven.  The plot is a moldy-oldie:  "a case of mistaken identity".  But it's the quirkiness of the characters that cause me to watch it over and over and over.  Each character is unique.  The Dude, Walter, Donny, Maude, The Big Lebowski, Grant, Bunny, Jackie Treehorn, Larry Sellers, the detective, the landlord, the nihilists... I think they're all fantastic.  Normally books or movies with this many characters can be confusing but this one required them.

No Country For Old Men is more plot-driven.  I think the ACTORS are more compelling than the characters they are portraying (the cowboy, the hunter [incidentally one of the frickin' scariest characters I have ever seen in a movie], the sheriff, the girlfriend, Woody).  But the plot is constantly forward-moving and, up until the end, gripping.  By the throat.  However, I've only seen this movie once with no real desire to see it again.

Raising Arizona is a great mix of characters and plot.  H.I., Ed, Nathan Arizona, the jailbirds, Glen and Dot... the way H.I. and Ed are compelling is that he is willing to do whatever he can for the woman he loves, including going back to his criminal ways, and the fact she, as a cop, is absolutely willing to compromise her morals and break the law to get what she wants is brilliant.  If you haven't seen this movie, see it soon.  You'll learn a lot as well as be entertained.

Good characters will save a tired or thin plot:  

Seinfeld was a show about nothing but in each episode, in addition to the four main characters who were complex in their simplicity, the recurring characters as well as the one-time-only characters would completely own the episode.  I learned the majority of what I know about character development as well as dialogue from watching/studying episodes of Seinfeld.  That's how I do it.  The cat is out of the bag.

The Breakfast Club was about five high school kids who had to serve an all-day detention at school on a Saturday.  Thin plot for sure.  But the portrayal of each character (the brain, the jock, the princess, the basket case and the criminal) was authentic because they weren't one-dimensional.  The kids had pain in their lives they were trying to hide and when it all came out throughout the movie and when it came time for them all to break down, they really delivered.  This is another favorite movie of mine I can watch over and over because of the characters.  

Animal House.  Did that movie even have a plot or was it just a free-for-all with John Belushi?  It doesn't matter.  It's an American Classic because of the characters.  Delta House vs. Omega House, the Deltas vs. the Dean of Students.  Classic conflicts are everywhere.  While no one really changes the kind of person they are at the end of the movie and conflicts are never really resolved, it doesn't matter.  Why?  The characters.

So how to make a compelling character?

:bulletred:  Start with a one-dimensional personality, not a "person".  Because there are a ton of specific personalities in high school, I'm going to go back in time.  What kind of people are in high school?  Students and faculty.  Big deal.  Those aren't personalities.  You've got jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, band geeks, drama kids, the smokers in the boys' room, the narcs, the Goths, the teacher's pets, the perpetually horny, the outcasts, the bullies, the foreign exchange students, the school-spirited and the bored clock-watchers.  I'm going to pick one for my examples here – we'll go with the cheerleader... Sally.  It's easy to stereotype cheerleaders as bimbos, easy, shallow and mean.  Who wants to read about the same old girl who's at the top of the pyramid with no panties on?  We must try harder to make a cheerleader worth reading.

:bulletred: Give them a problem that works in direct conflict with the personality.  Out-of-control vices are great for this.  Maybe Sally has a gambling problem.  Wait, what?  How can a cheerleader have a gambling problem?  Well, maybe she's not in high school but is actually a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys and has a penchant for playing the Pick 6 and scratch offs.  Maybe she's a Laker Girl who drives to Vegas every weekend and always comes home broke.  Just because a character is one-dimensional doesn't mean they have to fit the first thing you think of and be a stereotype.  Not all cheerleaders are 16-year-old girls.  But does she need to be a cliché?  No, unless you can make the cliché so extreme that no one has read anything like it before, which I think is acceptable.  But to do that is still not really compelling.  If she's bet her last hundred bucks on red and it lands on black, how does she get home?  

:bulletred: Give them a situation where failure is not an option.  This is where the plot can start to take shape.  We still need conflict, and the best way to give a character a conflict is to kick them out of their comfort zone and see how they handle it.  Maybe Sally was raised Southern Baptist and now she's broke – does she go to amateur night at Scores or the Crazy Horse and win it all?  What if she didn't?  How desperate will she get to save herself?  Does Sally find a rich businessman and prostitute herself for money to get home or does she rob him when she's up in his hotel room?  Does she stay, fight, and survive at any cost or does she give up?  How does she reconcile her upbringing with her addiction?  How does it change her?

:bulletred: Another option to compound a character's complexity – give them a secret that no one can ever find out about.  The more embarrassing, the better.  Find out what lengths they will go to cover it up and save face.

Like I said, the conflicting elements to your character's personality will help you shape the plot.  The more difficult the do-or-die situation is for them, the better.  The plot will be more convoluted and have more ins and outs they need to handle.  The result will be a story that is not only satisfying to write (as well as potentially easier to plan, which means easier to complete) but will be satisfying for your audience to read, especially if the personality you choose for your character is particularly one-dimensional, make the conflict, situation and secret twice as bad so they experience enormous personal growth because they have to... or else.  And the resulting personal growth can be life-scarring or the best thing that ever happened to them.  Either is acceptable.  Even if Sally does have to roll the businessman or work the pole, perhaps her growth comes from taking care of a problem herself instead of having to call her father and explain why she got herself in the situation she did, saving face and keeping her secret.

Dang, I kinda like this Sally girl...

What more do we want?  Someone to root for.  Someone worth it, even if we don't know it at the time.  We want a hero.

Another example about a character with a secret

The awkward, shy art teacher (a cliché, yes, but bear with me a moment) at the local community college is actually a massive death metal fan and has always wanted to be a singer in a band but never felt it was practical.  He feels that he's cultivated an image over the years that if his students knew, he'd be embarrassed (it doesn't fit his persona and feels they'd make fun of him).  He goes to see a show, his favorite Norwegian black metal band.  The singer overdoses onstage.  The band asks if there's someone who knows the songs.  He wakes up and realizes this could be a way to overcome his shyness, fulfill a dream and grow as a person by getting on stage and finishing the set.  Bonus points if there are some of his students in the audience.

This makes him a hero to the band (for not having to cancel the show), the audience (same reason), to the students ("Mr. Smith is cool after all"), to himself ("I did it"), and to the reader (all of the above).  He was able to change in a positive way in the end through action.  He doesn't change the world, just his little corner of it, and for some of us, that's huge.  Isn't it more satisfying that he takes the bull by the horns instead of letting the parade pass him by and keeps living his hum-drum life?  I think so.  It's like, "hell yeah, dude."

A word about unlikeable characters

The more of a jerk-off your character is, the less people might want to root for them and the harder you're going to have to work to win over the audience.  That doesn't mean you should ever take the easy road and not make them a heel.  People like characters they "love to hate" and people like underdogs.  We don't want to read about perfect characters, no one does.  

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it

Come up with at least three characters using the guidelines I have outlined above. I was going to save the link below until next time but we might as well get started now.  Feel free to comment, criticize, brainstorm and anything else.  If anything is confusing and you need more clarification, don't hesitate to comment or send me a note.  Once you have your characters, you can post them here if you'd like.  But hang on to them for your own personal use.  If you want to come up with more than three, go for it.  We can discuss whatever you'd like.

If you're not using this site (…), start.  It will make everything so much easier for you.  The bulk of the work is done for you already.  Now, I'm not saying play mix and match, create three characters that make sense.  Create characters you would want to read about.  And, this is a big hint... create characters you would want to write about.

Look for Part 2 in the next couple of weeks.    It will be an in-depth look at motivations.  So for the moment, take your time with this.  No rush.  Create a nice "waiting room" full of characters in the meantime.  It'll make things easier on you.

Part 2:…
Add a Comment:
No comments have been added yet.