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How to do a Character Study

This is one of my favourite past times and something I’ve done so much I sort of find myself doing it automatically a lot of the time.

To start with, obviously, I pick a character. I try to choose one that has more than just the basic cannon to work with. Something like a Jane Austen character or where a film has been made about a book. Most of the time having two sources to work from helps. On top of that if I’m using film as my source material I make sure it’s an actor I know reasonably well. It helps to have an idea of how they interpret characters and what sort of dynamic they will bring to the part. Finally I take a character that interests me in some way.

I then read or watch everything that character is in, paying attention to dialogue, body language (if film) and emotional reactions to events. There’s so much to learn about a character and most of it is between the lines so I just start with this and then grow out from there if I want to. If there’s a lot of stuff. I’ll just grab the original works and some of the bigger adaptations or extensions.

Through their dialogue and emotions you can get a feel for what makes them tick, their level of education, what they think of themselves and others and what sort of personality they’ve got. If they speak well they may have been to a posh school or they may be a little vain. Through their emotional reactions you can work out what hang ups their past might have given them as well as whatb their goals and dreams might be.

While a lot of this is included in the story if you’re studying a main character, studying the bad guy or the secondary characters often leaves you wanting on the details of their past and why they might be the way they are, and this is where the character study comes in handy the most. A lot of our personality and the way we act is governeed by our past. Take the phantom in the musical. In the film they made he comes across as a passionate a genius and very much in love with Christine. We also get shown the cruelty he’s faced because of his disfigurement and can then make the choice to pity him because a lack of love has made him so aggressively possessive of his own love’s object of affection.

In the original book, the phantom is more disfigured, more crazy and appears to take more delight in harming people for the sake of harming people, leaving us pitying him less. Our ability to pity comes out of analysing his actions and understanding whether they are coming out of his own pain or some sadistic desire to hurt others.

I try to make as few assumptions as possible, prefering to stick to the facts but certain behaviours usually match up with certain past experiences and the more character studies you’ll do the more you’ll get a feel for the types of logical leaps you can make about them.

When I’m satisfied I know the character as much as I can, I often start to brainstorm what if scenarios for them. I start with what sort of person would be able to make friends with them and gain their trust and then move onto romantic attachments. What would their ideal partner be like, how would their initial meetings go. For some characters I have many many possibilities for these but a few characters (often the more complex and untrusting ones), I can sometimes list several possible scenarios for a first meeting and the different personality types and find flaws in a lot of them, but eventually I arrive with something workable.

With all that done I often write a brief bit of dialogue intensive meeting of two characters. The one I’ve come up with as a friend or romantic attachement and my character study (On the few rare occasions I’ve been unable to decide on a suitable extra character, or when I’m struggling to get my head around the character and want to explore him or her a bit further before taking it too far, I might use myself as the extra character). This then gives me the opportunity to see if I can get into the character study enough to write as if I’m them, and explore their reactions and dialogue for myself.

Often this is where I end. If I’m satisfied with having an introduction to them and enjoy it I might continue, which is where my Mycroft fan-fiction has come from, but for the most part I consider myself satisfied and like I’ve understood the character as best as I can with the information I have. Very occasionally I come back to one years later and write the meeting point again from a different place.

The Phantom Of The Opera – The Book: A Review

I recently read the phantom of the opera in it’s original book format. It wasn’t what I expected. From the people I’d spoken to who also read it they said the phantom was painted in a much less favourable light than the opera piece but I actually disagree. I came from the book feeling just as much pity for the phantom as I did the opera. He wasn’t quite the same, a little less dashing and much more disfigured but still the same power of voice, presence and unashamed devotion to Christine.

He really does love her like he’s never loved anything before and wants her to be happy and be with him. That’s all he actually wants, a relatively normal standard life and somebody to share it with and for most of the book he thinks he’s found that in Christine. It’s actually really rather sweet and for the most part he does less harm in the book than the opera. He has done harm in the past but more on the request of others than actually by his own choices.

Christine was actually my least favourite in the book. She really didn’t help herself and unlike in the opera where she seems genuinly to pity and feel for him here she was just scared by how ugly he was and did everything she could to get away even pretending to love him when she didn’t. I know it was more normal back then to be scared of things that were ugly and shun them but I lost all pity I felt for Christine normally by the way she handled her fear.

Raoul grew on me but still seemed a little bit of a whinny brat. He does at least believe Christine in this version though and does his best to help her. I did feel his love was a lot more genuine even if immaturely bourne.

Over all I’d say it was on parr with the opera but heavy to read in the older english style.

The Phantom Of The Opera: A Review

I love films with music in them, well kinda, I love disney films mostly, I don’t actually like most traditional style musicals. They are often a little cheesy for me. I do love music though and a well told story. Therefore I was pretty convinced I would like The Phantom Of The Opera.

I have never had the good fortune to see it in the theatre so I saw the movie version made in 2004. I had no idea of the cast before I saw it so I was extremely surprised when Gerard Butlers name appeared. I spent the next half an hour trying to figure out who he was, I didn’t twig for ages that he was the gorgeous Phantom, singing all those gorgeous notes and perfectly suggestive lines. Gerard Butler was the phantom! This was the same guy I’d seen in Tomb Raider as Terry Sheridan. I spent the next half an hour totally absorbed in how different a performance he was giving.

Naturally I had to watch the film again. I can’t exactly give a fair review of a film when I’ve spent over half of it focused entirely on Gerard Butler. With the second watching I focused more on the film as a whole. There was a lot of detail to take in, in both the music and the scenes. Often the scenes within the opera house were busy and full of background stage people beautifully choreographed. Every little detail seemed well thought of, which was a relief when you notice that on the front cover of the dvd case the phantom’s mask is on the wrong side, (how did they miss that one?) which is not a great first impression.

Christine and The Phantom had an amazing amount of chemistry, the passion between them was evident and along with the music, very compelling. Both actors deserve credit for what they pulled off, the music and acting were both superb. Raoul was my sticking point. I couldn’t decide if I just didn’t like the actor and his slightly creepy smile and laugh or if it was just because he was not meant to be my prefered choice. I didn’t really like him though. I actually found myself wanting the Phantom to win Christine even though he was going about it in the wrong way.

Now don’t get me wrong, Raoul was the knight in shining armour he was meant to be. He pursued The Phantom at every opportunity and did his best to protect Christine when he realised she was in danger. The trouble was, until about two thirds of the way through the film, he didn’t even believe Christine that the Phantom was any more than a myth or something in her head. He even laughs at her at several points for trying to persuade him that the Phantom existed. It was almost like he didn’t actually care about Christine he just cared that someone else was after something he wanted.  He even asks her to put herself in danger so he can catch and punish the Phantom when to keep her safe all he has to do is marry her and take her home. He asks his future wife to risk her life so he can get revenge! I just couldn’t believe he actually loved her.

With that aside the film was amazing, the music was awesome, the singing divine and the details lovingly perfected. It really was an amazing work of art and I’m really hoping to go see the stage version some time soon.