Character Hooks

We discuss brainstorming Character Hooks – instantly intriguing character traits that are full of dramatic and/or comedic potential. When you read a book’s flap copy or see the trailer for a movie it’s not just the the plot conceit, world, tone, style, and the talent involved that makes you want pony up your hard-earned cash. Hopefully it’s also the character concept. Will James Monohan be able to convince co-host Jason Ginsburg, a self-professed plot-oriented writer, that hooky character concepts are equally valid starting points when brainstorming? Tune in to this practical idea-centric episode to find out!

P.S. Storyometer users. A new update to James’ brainstorming app is coming in about 12 days, featuring more content and some cool functional changes. Get ready! :)

The entertaining Twitter and Tumbler for Jason’s fictional football team.

The Storyometer – for iPhone and iPad.

Jason’s Screenwriting Website

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More about this show, for new listeners:

In The Narrative Breakdown, Cheryl Klein, James Monohan, and other guest co-hosts discuss storytelling tips and techniques of interest to any writer, student, or fan of quality creative writing, screenwriting, playwriting, fan fiction, English literature, etc. Each episode, Cheryl and James draw upon their respective experiences in publishing and filmmaking to analyze popular novels, movies, plays, television shows, short stories, and song lyrics. Featuring various co-hosts and writers, as well as material from Cheryl Klein’s book ‘Second Sight’ and James’ iPhone / iPad app ‘The Storyometer.’


3 Responses to “Character Hooks”

  1. Russell October 20, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Great episode again guys. Love Jason’s idea for his female quarterback, although I reckon it’d even work in a more dramatical setting than just as a comedy, although believability I guess could be an issue.

    Anyway, about MacGuyver. I remember watching it with my family when I was younger and loving it, and my teenage son now watches the repeats on TV here and loves it. But to be honest, thinking about his character hook, I don’t think he had one. In fact, reflecting on it now, I think the show was really pretty shallow.

    Plot was always thin – same old “save the damsel in distress from the bomb, 1 second before it explodes” storyline. MacGuyver had no real flaws or other interesting character twists, apart from maybe 1 or 2 single episodes where they explored his past. The whole draw of the show was to see how he was going to escape the situation with the everyday objects at hand.

    I think the most character development was in his arch nemesis Murdoch, who re-appeared multiple times and had his motives for why he did the bad things he did explored, and became more humanised over time. Even the recurring roll that a young Terri Hatcher played I think had more character development than MacGuyver did.

    I guess that’s not always bad though. I sometimes go see a movie that I know is a “popcorn” movie (i.e. – no plot, no depth) just to escape reality for a while, I just don’t think MacGuyver can be used as an example of character development.

    • James October 21, 2012 at 12:21 am #

      Thanks for writing in, Russell, and addressing those question we were having about MacGyver. Popcorn indeed. I couldn’t help but Google around on the topic. And wouldn’t ya know – there’s actually a MacGyver comic book currently being churned out (that explains why the creator was at the recent New York Comic Con, I bet). Interesting..

      Plus, Richard Dean Anderson is starring in 3 MacGyver webisodes/commercials to help pump Mercedes-Benz Citan.

      So, there’s still life in the concept – a beautifully simple concept – after all these years. Wow!

  2. Chas Hathaway October 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Very informative podcast. Thank you!

    I’d have to disagree with the first two commenters about McGyver. He had a great hook. He was a genius with no resources. He was also a crime-fighter with an aversion toward guns. He would never use them, no matter his predicament (with the possible exception of dismantling one for it’s parts). If that’s not a great setup for an action show, I don’t know what is.

    I think it was his hook (above) that made him interesting, and his humility that made him likable.

    And let’s not overlook his flaws. He was afraid of romantic commitment, which made him hard to keep, even when there was plenty of romantic interest. He was also afraid to get too close to anyone because he was constantly afraid of loved ones dying. That made him mainly a solo fighter, which compounded his problems. He’s also deathly afraid of heights (which, of course, he has to face ALL the time).

    And if that’s not enough weakness, the guy’s got a mullet.

    In my mind, McGyver is far more interesting as a character than James Bond.

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