Friday, 9 August 2013

Identifying the optimum age and persona for my story's hero

Character development is fun. At least it is right now.
I'm fleshing out a few character concepts that I have and trying to get inside the minds of these people to better understand what motivates their daily activity. I'm actually rather enjoying building their lives up to the present day and giving them some history.
Our past events and actions do naturally affect our character and path in life.

My story has my hero going from happy,bright, forward thinking and full of beans to a place of total despair. He finds himself in an environment totally alien to him. One in which he has absolutely no control. Once the dust settles he is left contemplating whether or not he is actually to blame for his predicament. Ultimately I want the audience to decide.

I love juxtapositions. For my character to really sense a loss of control he has to (in my view) command a fair amount of control in his daily life.

The profiles for my hero vary.
On the one hand I have a young twenty-something construction site worker with a bright future ahead of him. His girlfriend is soon to become his fiance and they are expecting their first child. I love the sense of hope and optimism in this persona. We've most of us felt the same elation as this guy. A key moment in our life.

On another hand I have a thirty-something professional man with a young family who appears to have everything - financial security, loving wife, excellent home life. His plunge in to despair is pretty brutal. From a position of control in a professional sense to a position of complete uselessness. Insignificant against the hostility that surrounds him.

I really want to define a persona that audiences will like and relate to and feel the maximum amount of empathy for when he is hurled in to hell. I want people to feel his pain and care about the outcome. I want them to root for him in every challenge and every moment of quiet desperation. Those agonising moments of solitude in an hostile environment.

I myself am a forty-something father of two. It feels more relevant to me to place a family man in to a hostile situation. Of the two personas I've listed here that is the one that would tug at my heart strings the most and wrench my emotions all over the place.

Perhaps the younger audiences whom I may assume would relate more with the twenty-something manual worker may see an older man as a metaphor for what they will become. Better still a man that they aspire to in every sense but then has it all ripped away from him. The loss of dreams. A cautionary tale of "careful, son, sometimes shit happens! Shit you didn't see coming. Prepare to test your faith and resolve."

We all of us accept the odd challenge but would happily accept a relatively smooth path through life. We certainly wouldn't wish upon anyone what I have planned for my story's protagonist no matter what their age.

I'm currently "dry running" each of my personas through the plot to try and assess the maximum impact on my senses. I keep coming back to the thirty-something. Ideally late thirties. Somebody secure who is about to hit the next milestone in his life, only for other factors to work against him and just destroy it all.

I guess I just want to define an optimum character who will command the greater share of an audience's empathy.

Tricky but a fun challenge.

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