This week we're talking about relationships--of all kinds--and how they influence us. Hopefully the literary theory on Monday didn't leave you cross-eyed. That class was the hardest one I ever took, but was definitely the most beneficial. Literary Theory fascinated me in college and I got to use a lot of it in papers and stuff.
Anywho... so today we're going to look at another relationship we know very well in our culture: teams. And our picture is going to be the greatest sports movie ever made: Remember the Titans.
One of the primary characters in this movie, Julius, understands the meaning of teamwork. Throughout the movie, he urges his teammates on by his words and example. His conflict at the beginning of the movie with Gerry only demostrates his handle on both of these dynamics. As the movie progresses and the team comes together under his and Gerry's leadership, they begin to win games. Why? Because they work together.
But there's one person on the team who refuses to completely join in until the final game--Coach Yoast. He worked all his life for the state Hall of Fame only to be sidelined for a new coach. There's a lot of disagreements as the two men butt heads. They have different coaching styles, different pressures on them, but they have two things in common: they love football and they have precious little girls. The two coaches have an agreement. Coach Boone is the Head Coach, but Coach Yoast's area is Defense. Yoast has something to prove. After all, he is supposed to be in the Hall of Fame. But during half time of the State Championship, he realizes that his pride could make the difference between the Title and second place. So he asks for help.
The result is a fluid, beautiful example of a team working together. Suddenly, all the boundaries are gone. There isn't Offense and Defense, just the Titans. They move as one; they celebrate and groan together. It's the coolest thing to see.
Our stories and their casts of characters are kind of like a team. Maybe there are a few key people in the forefront, but we need them all to make the story work. A story with one character is flat and boring. A story with secondary characters who vie for the limelight is disconnected. It doesn't flow. But when we're able to wrestle the characters into obedience and they do their jobs, something cool happens. They support each other--even the antagonists. Even though a story might be about one particular person, they need everyone else to tell the story in a complete, authentic, and compelling way. Our novels need that same fluid give-and-take as the Titans needed to compete for the State Title. Our characters need to be a team, not just a cast given certain actions and speaking lines.
Sometimes that's easier said than done. I feel like I'm learning more and more about this everyday. The best thing I've found is taking a step back from the story and evaluating its composition instead of individual pieces--like a mosaic. It's easy to get caught in the individual tiles and miss the continuity of the work as a whole. We need both viewpoints to make it work. It's hard to make everyone memorable without taking the focus from the protagonist, isn't it? But if we're able to get them to work together, the result will be a story that lives instead of falling flat.
What are some of your tricks to coaxing exact and appropriate activity from your characters?
See y'all Friday!
3 hours ago