Writing Can Be Murder

October 16, 2007

Character — On T.V. Characters are Welcome

Filed under: Uncategorized — jenniferelbaum @ 8:55 am

Have you seen or heard those ads that the USA Network runs: “Characters Welcome”?

I like those ads. I like them because (hang on a sec while I slip into my bulletproof vest since I know I’m committing sacrilege here) I like them because I think t.v. has the best character development of any medium.

That’s not to say that there aren’t GREAT characters in books, movies and plays. It’s not to say that there aren’t crappy characters on television.

But when a decent character is developed on t.v. we get to watch him/her over the course of a season for 22 episodes (unless of course you’re watching original programming on USA because they seem to run two half seasons per year).  In 22 episodes you can learn a lot about a character. You can watch as they deal with challenges. You can observe their growth. You can’t get that in a single book (a series of books is different imho).

I was thinking about this while watching Heroes last night. I happen to think that  Noah Bennet (H.R.G.) is one of the most fascinating characters around (played with masterful precision by Jack Coleman ). At the beginning of last season he was the monster that kidnapped people with special abilities. By the end of last season he’d been willing to sacrifice everything to protect his adopted daughter. This season he’s poised to revert to his old ways in the name of his righteous quest. His character is a mini-roller coaster ride, I never quite know whether I’ll be up or down with him, but I’m always eager to see what he’s going to do next. That, in my opinion, makes for a great character.



  1. I agree you can get to know TV characters pretty well and the best is when they actually do evolve [which isn’t all the time, but when it happens it’s great to see].

    This may be one of the reasons writing books is so hard. People who have grown up with television expect in-depth character development so authors have to cram a lot of backstory into a novel to bring readers up to speed. With television you can have a shadowy, indistinct character to start out and revel a little bit about them over time.

    Comment by bgardner — October 18, 2007 @ 7:43 am

  2. That’s a good point. If I think about movie actors, I think of the actor. If I think about a tv actor, I think of the character they’ve played.

    Comment by jenniferelbaum — October 18, 2007 @ 9:32 am

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