Character vs Characterization

So I’m reading this great craft book by Robert McKee called Story. It’s about screenwriting, which I’m not sure that I’m interested in, but it’s actually about … Wait for it … Story.

One of my favorite things he’s talked about in the first hundred pages is the difference between characters and characterization. He defines characterization as the details that make up a character–so the haircut, eye color, and clothing, but also the house a character lives in, the car, the job. The details. These are all things that make up our characterization. But character happens when someone has to make a decision under pressure. Does a character run into a burning building? Does a character lie when it’s easy? Does a character want to murder another character? Do they?

McKee argues that there’s no such thing as a character-driven plot, but rather character and plot are inseparable; if you change the character (a murderer that doesn’t murder) then you change the entire story. And characterization is almost opposite. You can change everything about a character’s details without changing the story.

Makes me appreciate the great characters that I love and the work (and the intentionality) that the authors put into them. Or it. The character and the inseparable plot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *