1. Read the post below.
2. Now read it again.
3. Make some warm cocoa, cause you’re gonna be up all night thinking about it…
(Part 2 in my 2-Part series of interviews with Robert McKee, originally posted on Writing.ie )
Robert McKee on CHARACTER
HDYGT: Is it necessary to know your character so well that you know where they were last Tuesday at 12:23 am?
Robert McKee, the man, the legend: You do all that research as just imagining, to pour it out. Then you research from the real world of the subject. You do all this to give yourself choices.
You don’t pour it all into the book, especially if it has nothing to do with the plot. Don’t be so obsessed and proud of your research that you don’t make choices, not everything is relevant to the story line.
I like work that is in depth. I don’t think humans are shallow. I think they have a public persona, in fact all varieties of public personas. We create various styles of behaviour when we interact. We have a whole set of social masks, then we go home and have a whole set of social relationships.
We have our private self, who is conscious of everything we do, then we realize our body is not us, we are not our moods, nor our feelings. I am not even my own mind.
I can watch my mind think. As I’m going through the day my mind and I become merged. I know there is an unconscious mind that gives me things I don’t want. It gives me fears.
All these things are not me. We live inside a complex of various selves. Most of them are tools that we use to get through the day. The society we live in is a whole pyramid of power, multilayered. Nature is multilayered. The evolution of living things is a pyramid, with humans at top, and bacteria at bottom.
My life is layered, so I want a writer who can shed light on this huge, layered complex that is the life of a character, and shed light on the things needed for his story.
When someone wants to write in a way that is knowingly flat, in order to express just some of those levels of complexity, that is fine.
But if the novelist just starts writing without knowing his characters, who they are, what they want, where they are, you may get something good, or you may not.
© HDYGT, December 2011
Robert McKee, a Fulbright Scholar, is the author of the international bestseller STORY. STORY won the International Moving Image Book Award and has been translated into 20 languages. STORY is a required reading in the creative writing courses at Harvard, Yale and major universities around the world. McKee’s UK Television programs have been twice nominated for the BAFTA, winning it for J’accuse Citizen Kane. McKee lectures world-wide on the art of writing for page, stage and screen and is the most sought after story consultant in Hollywood, NY and all other film making centres of the world. McKee was portrayed by Emmy Award winning actor Brian Cox in the Colombia Pictures, 4 time Oscar nominated film ADAPTATION. McKee alumni have won 35 Academy Awards, 164 Nominations, Emmys, Pulitzer & Whitebread Awards. In 2011 alone, McKee Alumni won 7 Oscar Nominations & 2 Oscar wins (Toy Story 3 & Inside Job).