March 17, 2020

Need Sage Advice? A Mentor Character Could Help Fix Your Script

Is your character trying to master something and not getting any better? Perhaps a mentor is what they need to take them to the next level...

I've spoken ad nauseam about how important mentors have been in my career, but I don't think I've ever talked about who they are within my writing...

Mentor characters have existed since almost the dawn of cinema. After all, Charles Foster Kane was just a kid bought and groomed by a mentor to be a leader, and "Yoda" became synonymous with mentorship sometime in the '80s.

So, let me be your Yoda so I can take you through the ins and outs of the mentor character. 

We can talk about how to craft one and why they're so effective in writing. 

Need Sage Advice? A Mentor Character Could Help Fix Your Script

One of the hardest parts about writing is getting your character to learn things in a natural way. Maybe they need to become a superhero or a chef, or maybe they need to be taught to become Zorro, appreciate poetry, write a great story, or just learn to deal with life. 

Mentors get us through the highs and lows around us. 

Sometimes they're caustic. Sometimes they're wonderful. 

We can fight with them, fall for them, and even kill them. 

But the mentor character is here to stay. 

What Do We Love About Mentor Characters? 

Perhaps it's the advice they dole out, the unflinching belief they have in their protégés, and the way we relate them to our own lines that matters. Still, not every mentor character is a nice person. 

You have the diluted insane mentors, like Fletcher in Whiplash

The mentor who arcs, like Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada

The softie with a checkered past, like Sean in Good Will Hunting

And even the wise old person who seems unrelatable and on a pedestal like, well, Yoda. 

What about someone like Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady? He begins teaching diction and, by the end, he's madly in love. Romances like these are hard to pull off because they can feel predatory. But that's another mentor category on its own. 

So How Do We Write Them? 

One of the ways I've worked out mentor characters is to develop them from the protagonist's fears. 

So, if your character is afraid of becoming old, soft, and unrecognizable to his hard friends...maybe make their mentor a genius therapist at a community college. 

You can also build a mentor from you lead character's desires. 

Maybe they want to be a Jedi Master...so have the master mentor them, like Yoda. 

Or maybe they want to be a great wizard. For that, have the egoless head of the school take them under their wing and give them the tools they need to achieve their dreams. 

I think the best mentors mirror their mentees. 

The reason being, they can help keep their inner desires at the forefront of drama. 

They also can serve as a juxtaposition between what a character wants and what a character needs. They can breed tension the more they can be wrapped up in their world. 

And we all know tension is a great way to inspire conflict in your story. 

What are some of your favorite mentor characters of all time? 

Let us know in the comments. 

What's next? Learn about love triangles...

Love triangles have been a crutch for many movies and TV shows. So, how can you write an effective one?      

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