create your Bonding Character with too many similarities to the
Hero, you encounter writing problems all the way through the script.
characters are too much alike, y ou will have to work to create
necessary tension, and through the middle part of the movie the
energy will sag— all because of the weak dynamic between
Hero and Bonding Character.
to make sure your screenplay will have drama and energy is at
the beginning when you are laying out the major characters.
a good idea to rent Girlfight and see how you think you
could have written it better.
and benefits of the unlikely pairing
The more unlikely the pairing,
the more energy, creativity and skill you will need to expend
to create the Bonding Event to bring these two unlikely characters
On the other hand, you will find
it much easier to create conflict and drama between two very unlikecharacters.
your creativity at pairing Heroes with Bonding Characters
illustrate how you might begin to brainstorm about your Hero and
Bonding Character, try playing with the pairings from the following
match them up, A’s with B’s.
fun, try inventing Bonding Events for a few pairings.
you will find hidden in these lists some pairings from produced
movies, bear in mind that there are no "right" answers
for you in your screenplay, there are only creative choices that
work for you.
wish, you can match up the samples that fit produced movies—
the answers are in the pop-up menu.
is more important for you to imagine which pairings you think
are the most dynamic, and how you would invent characters with
those basic patterns.
AND BONDING CHARACTERS
List (both male and female) .................... "B" List (both
male and female)....
2. ..A Russian male diplomat................................ 12.
A condemned male criminal
3. ..An impoverished male artist............................13.
A workaholic male corporate analyst
4. ..A shy female computer programmer..............14. A psychotic
male serial killer
5. ..A downsized suburban family man.................15. A married
teacher, mother of three
6. ..A male ghost.....................................................16.
A tough female street cop
7. ..An aggressive female FBI trainee..................17. A ruthless
upscale hit man
8. ..A street smart hooker.......................................18.
A high school cheerleader
9. ..A male talk show host......................................19.
A bogus female psychic
10. An ambitious female secretary........................20. A
Learn to understand
the dynamic between the Hero/Bonding Character and the Bonding
relationship between the Hero and the Bonding Character is the
human core of most movies. Spend as much time as you possibly
can on this part of the process.
you use to bond your Hero to the Bonding Character will determine
the plot of your story. And that’s a good thing, because
the plot automatically becomes the right one for your characters.
follow to help you understand the dynamic of the Hero, the
Bonding Character and The Bonding Event:
start with how about pairing up an unshaven, drinking and smoking
tramp steamer captain, and a prissy and proper missionary
different enough for your Hero and your Bonding character?
used the villains of the piece -- German soldiers who burn the
village in which Rose (Hepburn) and her brother have established
a mission. In the course of the altercation that occurs, they
injure Rose's brother, which leads to his physical and mental
breakdown and subsequent death.
Charlie Allnut (Bogart) returns, Rose, angry, determined, and
seeking revenge, persuades him, for the good of his country, to
embark on a scheme to turn the African Queen into a floating torpedo
and blow up the German ship that controls this section of Africa.
that the Hero and the Bonding Character are virtually welded together
by the Opposing Force of the movie, the "enemy."
What are the best kinds of differences for your characters?
The ways in which characters can be unlike is obviously unique
to each pairing a writer creates. But
I'll suggest some general aspects to look at:
typical of Romantic Comedies that the Hero and Bonding Character
are opposite sexes, and it's typical of "Buddy" movies
that they are the same sex, but it's not a law. Sometimes switching
the typical genders is exactly the right thing to do.
atLara Croft, Tomb Raider, and Charlie's
Angels, action pictures that switched the usual male
action hero from a man to a female. Consider
what are the best genders for your Hero and Bonding Character.
Clancy's The Sum of All Fears makes thorough use of this
aspect to explore the unlikeness of the Hero, Jack Ryan, and
the Bonding Character, William Cabot.
Because people's outlook, attitudes, interests, capabilities,
and personalities change with age, writers are prone to use
age as one of the unlike qualities that distinguish Hero and
we note this difference nowadays as an outgrowth of the increasing
tolerance of our democratic society, it's been a staple of drama
for centuries, even farther back than Shakespeare'sMerchant of Venice or Euripides Medea.
Lanes Gavin Banek, the Hero, played by Ben Affleck,
and Doyle Gipson, the Bonding Character, played by Samuel
L. Jackson, carry on their struggle with little mention
of the fact that one is white and one black, but visually
their unlikeness in this respect is a powerful reminder
of how different their life-attitudes are.
pairs up a nearly penniless Hero, played by Julia Roberts,
with Richard Gere's Bonding Character, a multi million
dollar investment banker with a ton of psychological
damage and a neat case of acrophobia.
don't need to stick with this model. Mix up the genders
or ages however you like, and go for it.
beliefs can provide an emotionally charged atmosphere for drama,
comedy, or tragedy.
One of my favorite
oldies is The
Way We Were, which uses the liberal/conservative, left/right
polarity as its central difference between the Hero and Bonding
Redford/Barbra Streisand pairing not only gets energy from the
political polarity between the characters, but also from their
Rich Boy, Poor Girl status.
Laurents with uncredited story participation by
Sargent, The Way We Were derives its whole
punch not from the events but from the differences
between the characters. And it also has an edge because
this is a movie in which the characters do okay for
themselves, but they don't grab the brass ring, and
they don't live happily ever after.
You don't need a
degree in psychology to realize that this is the arena in which
the battles are fought to determine who is the greatest writer
of them all.
It's also the arena
where the most fun is.
Shaping the character
of your Hero and your Bonding Character will determine the destiny
of your movie.
Your first task is
to invent their character traits, and your second task is to
invent the actions and situations in which your Hero and Bonding
Character will say and do things that reveal who they are.
A tall order.
You'll be dealing
in strengths and frailties, ethics and temptations, grit and
gas, loyalty and perfidy, courage and cowardice, generosity
and meanness, honesty and dishonesty, and thousands of others.
Simply put, you'll
need to shape the differences in this area with care, because
audiences (and Readers) have a radar detector for inconsistency
and falseness in character portrayals.
is study all on its own, much too large to cover in detail in
the scope of this discussion. In Chapter Eight, I dealt with
the audience's need for their hero to have certain personality
and character traits, to behave in ways that would maintain
their empathy for the Hero, and their identification with him.
When you write a screenplay, you're asking the audience, for
two hours of their life to "be" your Hero, to share
the triumph and tragedy, the exaltation and despair.
Just as you need
to know how to make your Hero "please" the audience,
you need to create a Bonding Character that makes them yearn
for the Hero and Bonding Character to get together at the end
of the movie.
At the beginning
of the movie their characters ought to be in a state that makes
them unworthy of each other. Therefore their characters
need to develop, grow, and change, so that at the end of the
movie, they deserve a closer relationship.
This is the delicate
shift of polarity you need to be deft at portraying throughout
A good movie to study
for this effect is Changing Lanes, mentioned above.
I recommend renting
the movie to compare who these two people are at the beginning
of the movie, and who they are at the end.
When you have done
that, try to discern where the changes occurred, where they
learned to transform their attitudes, where they learned
to see the world in a different light, where they mustered
the self-discipline to alter their behavior.
If you can succeed
at creating two unlike characters and force them to undergo
real character change, you'll have a successful story.
unlike the Hero and Bonding Character, the more energy your
story will have.
between the Hero and the Bonding Character is the human core
of most movies.
switching the typical genders of Hero and/or Bonding Character
is exactly the right thing to do.
in ethnic origin or race and in socioeconomic status can energize
your Hero/Bonding Character relationship.
political beliefs can provide an emotionally charged atmosphere
for drama, comedy, or tragedy.
the beginning of the movie the character traits and personality
of the Hero and Bonding Character ought to be in a state that
makes them unworthy of each other, so that they must
grow and change in order to "get together" at the