Craft: Writing


Okay. I’m a little behind the times. Or maybe I just need to be in the mood for a drama, but anyway, I just finished watching Denzel Washington in Flight. The first fifteen minutes were incredible. The tension. The plot. Disaster loomed but I stuck with it anyway. After the crash I watched this terribly damaged man wallow deeper and deeper into a bog of self loathing, fueled by alcohol and drugs.  Just when I thought he’d gone as deep as he possibly could, strangled by his own addition, suddenly he came up for air in the last minute. His mind clear and ready for confession. It was to nice. Too neat. Too Hollywood. The ending stuck in my head long after the credits had rolled. But not in a good way.

All the craft books on cwhitcombharacterization state that a character must change either through a physical or psychological journey. Evolution, according to Cynthia Whitcomb, comes in five stages:

  1. The Self
  2. Bounding
  3. Family
  4. Community
  5. Humanity

Most stories concern numbers one through three. Some touch on four, but rarely do they ever get to five. The bigger the jump the more memorable the character. Whitcomb sites five memorable number five characters such as Scrooge, Casablanca, A Wonderful Life, King Lear & Godfather.  I think what Whitcomb fails to touch on is the progression of that jump must be a gradual ascension. You can’t wallow in number one and suddenly jump to number five. In my experience people don’t change. And they don’t change that drastically. I think that’s what ate at me about Flight. Denzel’s Washington’s transformation was too big. Too sudden. And it just wasn’t believable. Not enough for me.

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