Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Prescript Life of a False Persona

I have a theory about the lives of certain characters in the run of a storyline, however, it particularly refers to the main characters and the life they lead prior to (and lead after) the beginning of that story; it applies to the majority of the books, motion-pictures and TV shows that are available to date. The theory simply states that most characters in a story lead somewhat unfulfilling and boring lives in the time that they do not spend in front of our eyes, which I feel misrepresents real-life. In the scripted life of any character, life is a segment, not a flow of events that we experience in reality.

Trying to explain this and then back it up with an example is not an easy task as most narratives vary and some tend to even attempt to cover themselves of this in some fashion, however, the best I think I can come up with is the action-drama television series 24. For those that aren’t familiar with this series (god forbid), this show in its early stages was semi-enjoyable, despite the fact that it’s always been a total crock in terms of characteristic realism, not to mention in terms of anything else. 24 is a show which follows a government agent, who seems to always be on his cell phone when he is meant to be driving, through a day jam-packed with events. Each season denotes one day, twenty-four episodes are in each of those seasons, each representing an hour in that day. Reason that this example does not perfectly back-up my point is because major changes seem to always be happening in between each season, however where the realism is not so strong is the fact that it is very segmentary in the way that any other crime seems to be at a stand-still during one of these seasons, and for an extensive government agency, not one person seems to be working on anything else other than this one case, like whenever Jack Bauer isn’t hunting down some terrorist-mastermind the agency might as well just close until he gets over his depression or gets pardoned out of prison and shaves that funky beard (all of which was done in the span of ten minutes, by the way).

Realistically, our lives generally smoothen out and things happen over time, however in the life of a character in its entirety, everything only seems to happen in a small fraction of their fictional lives and then they live ‘happily ever after’. Often I notice in television pilot episodes that everybody has conversations like they have just met or like one of them has been on one big overseas holiday for a few years which has prevented them from conversing about past events, it’s usually a conversation that builds the premise for some sort of story arc or something else particular to that character’s past, however, it would turn out that they have remained in close proximity and have been friends with these people long enough for an opportunity other than the one shown in the pilot episode to have such conversations; this is where 24 managed to cover themselves somewhat, in the pilot and the first episodes of the following seasons.

I have no real issue with it, it’s just a theory of mine that I think will always be what prevents a writer from truly capturing life in its most sedulous form. So, unfortunately when you are dealing with the limitation of a time slot or your words on a notepad, there is only so little time to demonstrate so much about a character.

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