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Monday, October 15, 2012

Jurassic Park Sightings (AKA Characterization Inconsistencies)

If you haven't read Jeff Gerke's Plot versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction, I suggest you do so. It's what has inspired a new feature on my blog.

A Jurassic Park Sighting is a characterization inconsistency. Anytime a character does something out of character to simply move the plot forward, or if they behave in a way contrary to how they have already been portrayed....this is a Jurassic Park Sighting.

Why pick on Jurassic Park? Because in book The Lost World, Michael Crichton introduced a character named Richard Levine, a brilliant paleontologist and a man who was "fastidious," with "obsessive heart a man of detail." He goes on for pages about needing to keep a pristine environment, yet he drops the wrapper to a power bar on the ground. The purpose this served was for additional plot, namely for raptors to smell the candy wrapper and come after them.

This weekend I caught up on Season 4 of Glee, and I have a great example of this for you.

Season 4 opens with auditions for New Directions, given that seniors Rachel, Finn, Puck, Santana, Mercedes, Kurt, Gwen and Mike have departed (for the most part) for bigger and better things. We're treated to an American Idol-esque version of tryouts, and Puck's younger half-brother is the first decent singer we hear.

When he signs up, he clearly exerts an alpha male influence, prompting another Glee Club wannabe to quickly drop the pen and step away from the sign-up sheet. He then signs only "Jake," with no last name (as to avoid association with Noah Puckerman), but which is also a dominant, confident move.

At the tryout, he sings "Never Say Never" by The Fray. (click for lyrics) This is not a song that showcases his bad-boyness. It's a beautiful ballad, but I digress. He gets through the first verse and chorus before he's interrupted by Will Schuester, who already knows Jake's more than worthy of New Directions.

Jake gets huffy, and is like, "I don't get to finish?" Will tells them that they have plenty of others to listen to. Jake then says, "But I've been practicing." [Jurassic Park Sighting #1 - whiny bad boy? This smacks of desperation and above all is VERY uncool of His Coolness.] Will says they've seen enough and thanks him.  Jake then storms off, knocking over a music stand. Will asks him to pick it up, but Jake gives a mocking bow and walks off.

Later, Will summons Jake to talk to him about his audition. Jake swaggers in and says, "Do you have any idea how hard I worked on that song? I was up for three nights getting it right, and you didn't even let me finish." [Jurassic Park Sighting #2 - no tough-as-nails kid is going to admit this to a teacher whom he feels just rejected him.]

After some family tree exploration of Jake's connection with Noah, Will tells Jake that he knew after the first verse he wanted him in the club. He tells him he's "really good." Jake gets this hopeful expression and asks, "You really think I'm good?" (NOT a Jurassic Park Sighting - this is character layering). Will confirms that he does think that, but then Jake closes off his expression and rejects Will's offer to sing. He says he likes the chip on his shoulder that Will told him he needed to lose.

The Difference Between Character Inconsistency and Character Layering

Because there was nothing said at the audition to warrant that type of reaction from Jake...the producers needed him to show attitude, so he did, come hell or high water. It was over the top. His revelation that he "practiced," said in front of current Glee Club members in the auditorium, was completely out of character, but it was needed to amp the tension enough to provoke him to knock that music stand over. Come on! Who does that?

The third gives us a glimpse into Jake's inner world...the insecurity underneath the facade of his tough exterior. It was made even more poignant by him closing the audience (and Will) off by reverting to the badboy mask.

I'm open to accepting Jurassic Park Sightings (in film or fiction), anonymous or otherwise. You can email them to me at jeannie (at) charactertherapist (dot) com.

Let's Analyze

Do you watch Glee? Who's going to be your favorite newbie?