Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Unstoppable Characters

Before I begin, is anyone else's blogger dashboard acting all wacky? Normally, it refreshes itself so I can get to all your new posts. Mine, lately, doesn't refresh even when I hit my refresh button in my browser. Weird. Maybe it's all the snow we're being bombarded with, up here. *shrug*

What is an Unstoppable characters? 

The other night, the hubs and I watched the movie UNSTOPPABLE. We've always had movie date nights just for us, alone in the 'man cave'. We've got dim lighting and  surround sound that could challenge any theater. (Hubby is way into electronics.) We also have our own movie theater popcorn maker. Makes the cozy room feel even more like the inside of a cinema, tapping into the senses of smell, taste, and touch. You get the picture. 

Since I've been writing, I not only read books with a keener eye, I also watch movies under a new internal microscope I didn't know I had. This new instinct gives movie night a whole new glow for me.

The movie was suspenseful and had lots of action. That's not what I'm here to chat about. I'm not offering up a review. Here's the movies log line:
With an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train barreling toward a city, a veteran engineer and a young conductor race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe.
Pretty basic, right? Seriously, that line truly sums up the film. It was all about two guys on a train trying to stop another train. Period. Plain Jane. It was so simple it almost scared me. So why did I sit there and watch the entire film? There wasn't much of a story. 

Characters. That's why I stayed.

Simple, tid bits of backstory were weaved in at just the right times, making me want to know more. Not so much about the train, train conducting, or the inevitable danger that must be coming but the two men who'd just met. We're first introduced to them in their setting--something that defines who they are as people. Major important element in beginning our novels. 

-Start the character in their Setting. This tells me something about who they are as people and how they react to their environment. 

These characters' stories were simple. Family issues (I won't say because I don't want to spoil it for those of you who haven't seen the movie.) and not too complex psychics or wants out of life. Two simply guys on a train.

Characters don't need to be complicated to be interesting or to draw a reader to want to know them. They don't need to have such a thick onion peel that when the layers are being stripped during the story the reader gets lost. The only criteria is that they feel real, like you could stand behind them in line at the grocery store or that they might like the same toothpaste you use.

Sometimes simple gives a jolt to the character development throttle - Unstoppable, making the reader need to follow the story. I'm still pondering what made me like these two guys and why I ended up rooting for them. Honestly, I think it's because they were so down-to-earth real. And that perception was given to me through how and when those simple tid bits about them were fed to me.

I plan on expanding upon this post about Unstoppable characters. But for your interest, here's a great Post  on this same subject I found last night. 

Are your characters Unstoppable? Are they simple? Complex? How do you handle their development?  


  1. Interesting. I've been wanting to see this movie. But I agree. We don't need the characters backround to be mindblowing, just intriguing enough to want to know more.

  2. You are so right. Without those compelling characters, you don't have that wonderful experience of getting lost inside the story. Great post, Sheri. Thanks for getting rid of that whatever thing so I could post again!

  3. My first though was that it was SPEED, but with a train, but that had a romance in it, too. So perhaps not. It really should boil down to the characters, I think. The plot can be twisty and amazing, but insert a brilliant character, and you have a memorable story. Great analysis!

  4. I think characters are key. With characters that you care about, how cares about the plot?

  5. Chris Pine would draw me in... *swoon* :) But, I agree - the more real the character is, the better. I want to care about them - wish I could hang with them in the real world. I hope my characters are that relatable! New follower and fellow crusader here, just (finally) making the rounds. Happy Tuesday!

  6. My dashboard is always going wacky. That's why I don't use it anymore. And yep, I can't watch a movie or read a book without analysing it.

  7. I do that too!

    Seriously, my wife and I were watching Deja Vu a while back (go Denzel!), and three or four times I bounced up and down on the couch saying, "See what they did there? That's good writing!"

    She was all, "Yes, dear."


    Also, hi. We *do* seem to blog at opposite times, don't we? Let's remedy that. Also, let's trade living rooms for a bit. I need a man cave.


  8. This is an interesting point. It reminds me of Lost--no matter how bizarre the plot gets on that show, the characters keep you hooked till the end. Probably one of the best TV examples of characterization.

  9. I find myself picking apart not only books but also movies, trying to figure out what makes them work, or not work. Glad to know I'm not alone!

  10. I just saw this movie too! It was great.

  11. I reaaaaaally want to watch it now.


  12. Yep- sounds spot on! I've been wondering about that movie!

  13. Ah yes, the secret to making characters that we can't let go - now I've definitely got to watch this movie and see how they did this. BEsides, I LOVE Denzel Washington. Or maybe it's that I lOVE the characters he plays? Can't tell for sure!

  14. doh, I keep forgetting that I want to see that movie. Sounds a lot like SPEED. I mean, they spent pretty much an entire freaking movie on a CITY BUS, but I'll be darned if I didn't feel compelled to keep watching because I couldn't abandon the characters.

    It's my firm belief that if you have the right characters you can make just about any story come to life. Now, if you'll excuse me I must run off to rent this movie. :D

  15. First--

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! *hugs*

    And, yeah, I dissect every movie, TV show and book with a fierce critical eye.
    And, I am a huge proponent of writing very layered characters.

    Birthday hugs,

  16. Happy Birthday, Sheri!

    Bear hugs from me! Have a wonderful day....

    Characters need to be real and exciting. If not, how else will be able to relate to character.

    My recent novel has an explosive antagonist which puts the mc between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

    WIth this we a writer gets the reader to feel immediately for the character.

  17. yeah! Both to the blogger thing and to the watching/reading w/a more critical eye now. I notice all sorts of things... But as for character development, I try to know them as well as I can. Their bkg, looks, desires, motivations. Then when I start writing and put them in situations, I know what they'll do. yes? :o) <3

  18. Totally agree about the importance of character. And, ooh, I need to check out this movie!

  19. Hi fellow crusader, I'm a follower now. My hub and I also have 'man cave' and movie night. :)

  20. Great movie! And characters are the drive of my story.


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