How Much Can You Change A Character? – Op-Ed Piece


Introduction

Hey readers,

Here is a piece about characters in stories and what we are to make of their changes.

I included a link to this post in the piece.

Homer Piece

Also, since I mentioned Harry Potter so much, here is a piece about Harry Potter being the best character. I want to get back to this series where we pick a writer or book, or character and explain why they are the best ever. I like writing that stuff. Let me know if you guys want more of that.

Harry Potter Piece

Check us out on Facebook if you are new here since, for the time being that is the place we are the most frequent.

Other than that, have a Merry Christmas and enjoy reading. Thanks.

How Much Can You Change A Character? – Op-Ed Piece


Characters speak to us through the tales that they find themselves in. Whether it is a character from the ancient world who has survived the destruction of their civilization to the modern inventions that reflect our own complicated technologically driven environment, creating one for the sake of a story has engulfed our imaginations for years. It will continue to do so as long as we are around. These characters are what we use to teach about ourselves and our strengths and weaknesses, learn of the world and all that it has to offer, and grow as a society to reach a common goal. It is like what I said about Homer’s stories a while back. We put them in our schools where the children ignore the teachers. We make statues of them in town squares where we all like to take a scroll on a cool afternoon. We make shirts with them on them that we can wear while we lay around the house. Why? Because we like these characters and the stories they are in.

Authors are often asked whether it is a character that drives the story or the story that drives the character—a very chicken before the egg situation for the literary community. If we define a character with the actions that they perform, then the story is the key, being that the story is all the actions. But if that were the case, then wouldn’t we be able to give any hero a sword, or wand, or lightsaber, and then be done with it? What is the difference between the hero and any other person if we are following this particular hero? Why not follow someone else? The story is the actions, which help us identify the character, but then the character brings something else to the table that is theirs alone; That is outside of the story. How can we distinguish between an act that the character did because it was who they are and an act that happened because it was just a part of the story? Can we?


This debate is one that has fueled writers for many years. Many writers, in many languages and cultures, have pondered the nature of character creation. I guess that is what happens when you spend all day writing stories; you start to question what makes the stories. Now, we all find ourselves on the very individual character-related side of the spectrum. We don’t really know what a story is as just a story. The modern novel is based upon you being attached to a character in the story, more than the story itself. Take Harry Potter or any of the bestsellers. They are all about you relating to and connecting to the character in the story rather than the story. Believe it or not, some stories were written the opposite of this, where the character takes a back seat to the story being told. As readers today, we don’t know of this very much, for all you see are character-driven stories, where the individualist of the character is what you are meant to notice. The voice of the character and the style is more important than anything else. The ironic part of this is how many writers then pitch their stories as original, instead of seeing that they are merely restating an already known story with a new take. It is not necessarily original if the story’s whole basis is that the character is unique since we don’t seem to know where a story ends and a character begins.

That gets me to the question I wanted to ask you today, as you scroll through your Facebook feed, eat some snacks you have lying around and try to fix the television. Sorry, this question won’t help you scroll quicker, or give you more snacks, or repair your TV, but it can help you think a little bit about the stories that we all like so much.

How many times can a character change before it is a different character altogether? When should the author just admit to their audience that the character they are reading is different from the original?

Let’s take Harry Potter, for example.



  • He’s British.

  • He’s a guy.

  • He is a wizard.

  • He wears glasses.

  • He is the hero of his story.

  • He has two best friends.

  • He carries around a wand.

  • He has a mark on his forehead.

  • His main enemy is Voldemort.

That is quite a list. One that if I gave you all of them, you’d notice I was talking about Harry Potter eventually. Collectively they make up the character we all know as Harry Potter. This leads me to my next question.

How much can you change of Harry before he isn’t Harry?
  • He isn’t British. He is Irish.

  • He isn’t a guy. He is a girl.

  • He isn’t a wizard. He is a warrior.

  • He doesn’t wear glasses.

  • He isn’t the main hero of the story.

  • He doesn’t have two best friends.

  • He doesn’t carry around a wand.

  • Voldemort isn’t his enemy.

When, in that line of traits, did the character I was describing to you not be Harry Potter? Was it right away when he was no longer British? Or was it all the way down when he was no longer an enemy of Voldemort? Perhaps he was no longer Harry to you when he wasn’t the hero of the tale being told. Whatever the case, what if I tell you that the character I was describing to you was still Harry Potter, but just a different version of him, in another timeline, for a story you didn’t read yet? Would you buy it? (not literally, I have no copies of this ready) If I put his name on the cover of a book and the character in the book has all the traits I just mentioned above, how long could I go before you stop reading it and say that it is not a Harry Potter story, even though the title of the book bears his name? At around 30 pages in, you’d start to question what book you are reading. Right after, Harry says, “Top of the morning to ya lads,” to his one drinking friend.


Suppose you don’t think this happens and that I am making up some hypothetical scenario because I want to take a break from writing about Christmas. In that case, you are right there since I don’t want to write another Christmas short at the moment, but you are wrong with the character manipulation occurrence. It happens more than you think. You only have to look at popular comic books and movie franchises to see the mess they have created with their own characters. These fields don’t know what makes a character, but they know that you keep showing up to buy what they are selling, so as long as that happens, they aren’t going to freak out too much. It is funny that they don’t know what makes a character, but they know you like the character.

They keep telling me that guy on the page is Superman, but he doesn’t act like Superman, or look like Superman, so is he still Superman? (Remember that checklist I made for Harry Potter? You could make one for Supes too) According to them, yes, if the character goes by the name, then it is the character, regardless of traits. Which is funny because I always thought that Superman had a big S on his chest and stood for “truth, justice, and the American way,” but that is nowhere in the story I am following. You have almost to be stupid or completely ignorant to believe that the Joker from the latest movie is the same as the one in the TV series in the ’60s. That character doesn’t act the same way, look the same, or speak the same, so why are they allowed to get away with calling the new guy the Joker? Or is it the old guy that is the Joker? They have such differences that I don’t think it is wrong to say that one of them is not the actual Joker.


The comic book world will point to alternate versions or different dimensions as a reason for this mayhem, but that is bullshit. If it is an alternate version, don’t use the same name to get me to buy the damn thing. Spiderman has this problem. According to Marvel, anyone can put on the Spiderman suit, from a pig to a woman, to another guy altogether. But then Marvel is also quick to tell us that overused line of “with great power comes great responsibility” (Which if you are one of those people who uses that line as if Shakespeare wrote it, or like treat it like a poetic and great line, then I no longer like you. The line is bland and boring, and most importantly, overused. I can’t stand it. Back to my original point of Marvel being unsure of Spiderman’s character)They tell you a major moment in one character’s life is what formed the hero. Still, they also want you to believe that anyone can be the hero. It is an apparent contradiction that they avoid by saying that they are giving opportunities to the other people in the universe.

Still, then they can’t come back and say that a character like Spiderman is really that unique since, according to their own universe, he isn’t.

This goes for every superhero. (I am only mentioning Spiderman’s because he is the most obvious example) Remember that checklist for Harry Potter? Well, you can ask the same thing about Spiderman too.

Now let’s talk about big movie franchises, the ones that have the big premieres with too many lights and long red carpets. They are the movies that make all the money and that we all go to see and watch. Does an actor, the actual human being, make a character, a fictional creation? Is it vital that a certain actor portray a specific character? The movies don’t know how to answer this. Going by the latest blockbusters, they don’t know how to answer much, but that is a different topic.


On the one hand, movie franchises like Star Wars have their actor portrayal essential to the story. Hayden Christianson looks like Anakin Skywalker in every story about Anakin Skywalker. Mark Hamill looks like Luke Skywalker, all the time, in every poster, every shirt, everywhere. We have gotten to the point where we think that the actor and the character are the same. The franchise doesn’t stray from this. In fact, they may get some backlash from the fans if they do so. The actor equals the character. Is this right, though? Is this giving the actor too much power over the role? I thought we were all here for the story, not the character? After all, no one says only one actor can look like Romeo. Shouldn’t the character be able to be presented without us thinking of the actor too? I don’t know. I do believe this begs to question; Do the people enjoy watching the characters or the actors if the actors are the ones that they see more than the characters?

When you buy a comic book or see a movie, these two fields don’t act like they are answering a big profound philosophical question. God forbid they did that, for that would mean they are spending time away from thinking about the money they will make from the films and books. But they are answering the question; What makes a character, a character?


But maybe there is a reason for this avoidance. Who wants to ask this question anyway? Can I just watch my Superman movie in peace? I like Harry Potter, so I will deal with one book that is a little off. Have you ever stopped to think about what makes a character, a character? Or are you already going to see the next Star Wars film regardless? You are lining up to buy the next Harry Potter spinoff no matter what. The appeal of these figures has blurred any critical thought you or I have. But maybe we should for a second think about this, since you may not have noticed, but characters are everywhere. It would be nice to know what makes up the things that are such a large part of our society.

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Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. He is currently working on a Harry Potter featuring the Irish warrior and his one friend. He hasn't gotten the plot down, but he has a feeling that Hary won't be a hero in it, Voldermort won't appear and Harry won't attend Hogwarts. It will be a Harry Potter though.

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