Find the natural moral or ethical conflict in your community that you can apply to your character's situation.
Deadpool's morbid sense of humor conquered audience's hearts in 2016. We sympathized with a man who took drastic measures to try and cure his cancer and who frequently broke the fourth wall to let us know what was on his mind. Character-driven movies can be more impactful than plot driven stories, and Deadpool's raw and genuine character traits are likely what made the movie such a huge success. So how can you create such a character in your own work?
I stumbled upon an opportunity that allowed me free access to COMIC CON in New York, as I was hired to film for a non-profit organization called Dare2Draw. I had some free time and so I took a stroll around the other booths. One artist who caught my eye was Fabian Niciesza, co creator of the Deadpool comics on which the film is based. The film was becoming a blockbuster at the time and, despite the long line of eager fans waiting to meet him, I had a chance to speak with the artist. I asked for some advice on character creation, and Niciesza answered, "Whoa that’s a big question." He offered his business card and asked me to email him with the same question so he could have more time to answer.
I did exactly that and below is his response from one of the most valuable emails I have in my inbox.
1. Write what you know
At this point it’s cliché, but Niciesza elaborated on this idea in the email. He said that, at my age, I could be lacking the life experiences of a much older person, so he advised: “Bring your unique personal experiences into your writing. So if you (or someone close to you) have encountered challenges in your lives, find a way to incorporate those challenges and the ensuing conflicts, into your work.”
2. Find duality
Niciesza said, “If you can provide a duality to your characters conflict, that's a good starting point.” Here are a few examples of "duality" provided by Fabian himself.
- To save my self/family/community, I have to:
- be hated by my self/family/community
- go against my self/family/community
- hide my true nature (sexual orientation, intelligence, powers, illness)
- To fight crime, I have to become a criminal.
- To help save my village, I may have to burn my village.
It's well known that conflict is key when it comes to involving your audience into your story, but this internal conflict is really what resonates with the viewer.
What makes Spider-Man such a great character, for example? As a shy, lonely, bullied kid, his own selfishness—once he was given liberating superior powers—led to the death of his loved one. He learned that with great power comes great responsibility, and personal cost.
Batman: I will try to never let what happened to my parents (and me) happen to anyone else.
Superman: Though I always feel like a stranger in a new land, I will use my superior powers to help my adopted home.
In Deadpool’s case, his life changed forever when he found out he was going to die of cancer. His life took another drastic turn when he acquired his power through an experiment in an attempt to cure that cancer. His newfound powers turned him into loner, outsider, and, to some, a monster.
What do you think are the best examples of a character's internal conflict? Let us know in the comments.