Monday, March 25, 2013

Tip # 10: Characters

By Anant Mathur (March 25, 2013)

When creating characters for your story you should think of yourself as Dr. Frankenstein. Just as Frankenstein brought a creature to life from the sum of various body parts, you too are giving life to a character that doesn't exist. And, in order to do that, you're taking different parts from your own imagination and experiences to create a being that your audience can believe is "Alive!".

Sometimes writers get so lost in the creation of the story that they forget that the characteristics they've implanted their character with won't allow them to do certain things. The psychological elements are usually missing altogether in most Bollywood films. For example, if you take a character like Chulbul Pandey from Dabangg, there are certain nuances and body language which the character resonates. Chulbul would never behave the way Prem from Hum Aapke Hain Kaun..! would, but that doesn't mean he can't have his own love story, it just has to be in his own style and must follow his mental state.

Having said that, this doesn't mean your character(s) can't do things which are out of character, but a situation has to present itself and it must be brilliantly written. For example, If the spouse of a lead characters were to die or be killed, there are different paths the character could take if it's a male who has suffered the loss; and if it's a female who has lost her husband her mental state would be entirely different.

I always recommend to new writers that they take Psychology courses or at the very least read a few books on the subject. It helps you as a writer to understand how a persons mind would react in any situation depending on their mood, situation and surroundings. For example, if your character is in a situation where he's being bullied, there are several scenarios that can come into play, depending on the type of character he is, he could 1) do nothing or 2) turn it into a humorous situation or 3) fight back, etc. it's important to know which one because it will define him to your audience. And if you choose the wrong scenario the audience will feel cheated and your character will become a farce.

It's not easy to write a brilliant story or screenplay but it does make it easier when you have a solid understanding of all the parts that make up your character(s). If you write ignorantly you risk facing the same fate as Dr. Frankenstein, in your case the monster will be your story or screenplay. But, if you can write brilliantly you will touch the height of success Dr. Frankenstein only dreamed of... 

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Presumed Guilty...

By Anant Mathur (March 10, 2013)

In most civilized nations on this planet the law states that a person is innocent until proven guilty. But for the last little while the media has been jumping on stories in such a way that it seems that a person is automatically guilty until his lawyers can prove otherwise. Don't get me wrong I'm not making an excuse for the guilty; I am just pointing out how the media misleads viewers into thinking only in one direction... theirs. It's sad that today we live in a world where people have stopped using their brains and believe every little thing they hear on TV or read online or in social media. 

If the media reports that Lindsay Lohan stole a bag of milk, everyone automatically assumes that she did it because that's how the media is projecting it. Where's the proof? What ever happened to a fair trial and innocent until proven guilty?

Media does not even believe in looking at evidence, all it believes in is getting the headline. If someone is suspected of something they spin it as if he/she belongs in jail. My personal favourite is when the media says a source has told them, who's this source, their imaginary friend. You can almost always bet there's no source when the media says a source has told them anything. It's no different than a Radio Jockey having their friends posing as listeners and calling-in to request a song. The best way to judge any case that's in the media is to read quotes. The media can't mis-quote people, so anything that is being quoted is true and everything else is likely untrue.

Evidence is not merely what a witness says. If a neighbor says he saw or heard a couple fighting, where's the proof. The neighbor could have a grudge against them and be lying - all that will come out when he's cross-examined by the defense counsel - but the media won't tell you that, to them the suspect is not a suspect, he/she is guilty until they proves their innocence. A person cannot be found guilty just because someone says they did it, there has to be motive and proof of murder. Witness testimony is not proof. Also, being a witness is different than being an eyewitness. An eyewitness is someone who was present when and where the crime was committed a witness doesn't have to be present at the crime scene. A guy saying he heard gunshots at 3 am is not evidence - first of all what was he doing awake at 3 am. And how do we know he didn't dream it or that it wasn't a car backfiring. If the police find incriminating letters/texts/e-mails or threatening phone calls... that's evidence.

The one thing the media can't tolerate is when a case doesn't go the way they predicted. Take the O.J. Simpson trial for instance. The media was dead sure he was guilty and would go to jail and couldn't believe it when the verdict was not guilty. I'm not saying that O.J. was innocent but the court needs solid proof before it can convict someone. If there's reasonable doubt, the defendant cannot be found guilty. A persons guilt or innocence is based on evidence and not on personal prejudices. Lots of guilty persons go free because of a lack of evidence and sometimes the innocent are sent to prison, it all depends on how incriminating the evidence is.

On Feb. 14, 2013, tragic events transpired at the home of the hugely admired, world-famous athlete Oscar Pistorius where he claims he accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend. Dubbed the Blade Runner, for his prosthetic legs, Pistorius faces a charge of premeditated murder in the Valentine's Day shooting.

Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend for an intruder and shot her out of fear, while prosecutors say he planned the killing and attacked her as she cowered behind a locked bathroom door. The prosecution should have never charged Pistorius with pre-meditated murder; it's difficult to prove a murder is pre-meditated when it is a pre-meditated murder. In Pistorius' case it's near impossible.

From what I know of South Africa, break-ins are quite common and most people, even the well off, own guns. Many of the people in rural areas shoot first and ask questions after. Living in a gated community is no guarantee against intruders as security guards are often in on the crimes.

If it hasn't happened to you, you can't possibly imagine what it's like when someone breaks into your house. How violated you feel and how you keep wondering why me? It completely changes your mindset, every time you hear a sound you jump. If there are guns in the house you would probably grab one before you went to check what it was. Now imagine that this is how your life is
every day. Each moment you fear that someone could break into your house again and hurt you.

Personally, I'm against guns, but the only way for guns to be out of everyone's life is if the government bans the manufacturing of them. There are so many things that can be used as weapons in a house in case of an intruder, you don't need a gun. Guns kill and usually they kill the innocent!

I'm not condoning Oscar Pistorius' actions, he killed someone regardless of whether he thought it was an intruder or not. I can certainly understand his mindset if there was an intruder, but to try him for pre-meditated murder is unheard of. If anything the prosecution should've tried for Culpable Homicide (the unlawful negligent killing of a human being). 

Forensics will play a big part in the Oscar Pistorius case. Chances are until the case is finally heard; it won't be known what exactly happened. We can speculate all we want but since we don't know what happened our own prejudices are what's dictating how we react every time we hear the name Oscar Pistorius. 

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.