Tuesday, April 1, 2014

All You Need to Know About Creating Kick-Ass Characters ...

...  You can learn from KICK BUTTOWSKI -- Suburban Daredevil
Did you get that play on words there? Kick-ass character? Kick Buttowski. You see?
Okay ... Let's get back to the character stuff.

Here's the deal. I have a two-year-old and six-year-old and got to the point that if I were to see another saccharine character that was the perfect friend and always nice with an always nice family that always had an educational or moral message to shove down my throat, I was going to choke on the too-expensive Cheerios I justify buying for "my girls" even though they don't eat them (I know. I buy them for me using my daughters as an excuse. Something you won't see in freaking Princess Sofia) and give up on animation all together. It's like they've all become these interchangeable characters with nothing remarkable about any of them. This weird homogeneity of kindness and goodness and ... GAH!

"Where are the falling anvils?"
"Where are the ACME explosions?"
"Why is everybody so freaking nice?"

Then ... I stumbled upon THE ultimate of ultimates, the best of the best, the amazing of the amazings, the biggest pain in the ass of the pains in the asses: Clarence "Kick" Buttowski.

Pay attention, guys, this kid BURIES Doc McStuffins and Princess Sofia and Rolie Polie Olie and the damned animals on wheels in the jungle. I won't go on. (And, please, do not make this a reflection about me watching too much TV with my kids, okay? Yeah. Yeah. Brain damage aside. Focus here, people.)

Rules of characters. (Yep. All great characters need to follow some basic rules to make them great characters.)

1. A character needs to want something:
  • Kick wants to be the world's  greatest daredevil, Evil Knievel-style.
2. Something is in the way of the character and his goal:
  • His height (he's short). He has to shop in the "short and squat" section of the store. LOVE this.
  • He lives in Suburbia, America. 
  • He's not popular.
  • His family -- he has a bully big brother, princess little sister, pansy dad, and mom (a retired speed boat racer ... which is a cool surprise in and of itself.
3. We don't have to like a character, but we should admire one:
  • Kick never gives up. He's determined and will do what it takes to get what he wants.
  • You can trust Kick. He won't tell anybody's deepest secrets (like how Dead Man DAve is still alive).
  • Kick is a good friend. His best friend is the afeminate son of the Viking family that owns Battlesnax -- this insanely macho Viking food place. His name is Gunther Magnusun, and he always wears Crocs and will do ANYTHING for Kick. As Kick will do anything for him.
  • Kick is a good brother. When it comes down to it, he'll help his sister out at her beauty pageants and his brother (who is a total loser) at his lame parties. And when it comes to a crunch, they're allies. They usually don't get along. They fight like mad, but they're siblings that know that they've got each others' backs.
  • Kick is a good son. His dad totally embarrasses him.His mom is pretty absent. Both parents spend their time taking Brianna, the little sister, to pageants. But at the end of the day, he doesn't want to hurt them or their feelings. Though he finds them completely irrelevant at times.
4. A good character has to have flaws and quirks -- or something VERY unique to help develop them and distinguish them from every other character on the planet.
  • Even though he's only 10, he sounds like he's been a pack-a-day smoker for the past fifty years.
  • He wears the SAME Evil Knievel outfit every single day. I've seen him change the outfit once or twice but wear the helmet, always.
  • As do the other characters wear their same clothes every day. Magnus' Crocs kill me!
  • He's completely reckless and resourceful and irreverent. 
  • He blows it. He says the wrong thing, does the wrong thing, and is completely human about it. FAR from perfect.
 Basically, Kick is it. I laugh, out loud, every morning braiding my daughter's hair for school because he is one of the best animated characters out there. (I wish I'd invented him!) And he's surrounded by such an amazing cast of equally interesting, complex characters. It's such a pleasure to watch a "real kid" who makes real trouble who is misunderstood and not always valued but has such a strong sense of who he is, he's willing to take risks (the heart kind) to do the right thing for the people he loves.
Easy right?
Um. Nope. So, back to work, write? (Get it. How I changed "right" for "write." Yeah. Okay. I need to get back to work, too.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why I'm Striving for Good ...

It will leave you breathless ...
You won't believe what he does next ...
Epic, stunning, striking, open-your-thesaurus and spew ...
I wasn't prepared for the last image.
What happens next will ... (restore your faith in humanity, make your heart burst, blow your mind)

So, we've been bombarded by amazing, stunning, epic ... Everything is Up-Worthy. Everything is mind blowing. Having our brains get blown to bits now seems pretty mundane, so I'm waiting for something to melt my kidneys and have my liver duplicate itself on its own (I hear they can do that worm, regeneration thing, right?)

We share, share, overshare (No. I'm not exempt from this, hence the first person plural). We are stunned, amazed, and now a bit bored by it all. Up-Worthy to me has become the equivalent of Hallmark Spam. Sound bytes and images and video clips of things that in and of themselves might be pretty neat. But then the bombast and the overshare and the da-dum-da-dum ... what happens next will ...

I would love to see: This guy reunites with his best friend from childhood. What follows will bore you to tears.
or ...

This seems like a nice kid. He has stuff to say. Listen if you will.

Oh and the cats!! The memes ... Sorry guys, NO cat is upworthy to me. Really.  And I'm not even going to talk about the latest Buzzfeed "Which ______ are you?" I think they should do "Which over-used, cliche, Upworthyism are you?" I bet they have it.

Criminy. It's downright irritating. It feels forced and staged. I'm just so dang sick of the saccharine of the amazing of the bursting hearts and blowing minds. It's become the equivalent of a sugared-up, greeting card Tarantino.

You know what gives me chills? When somebody says, "That was good."

There's something powerful about sincerity. 

So, as a friend posted today, find the extraordinary in the ordinary without all the humbug. Keep the good ... good.

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