Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Character Growth - What Don Jon Can Teach Us

I watched a movie called Don Jon the other night. It stars Joseph Gordan-Levitt, who I really like as an actor. I think he's really talented and I like the roles he chooses to play.

I'd never seen him do anything like Don Jon before. Believe me, it's not usually my type of movie. It was an R16 and I soon found out why. Throughout the first half hour or so, I kept thinking, "Do I really want to be watching this?" I wasn't offended or anything, but I had to question if watching a movie about a guy addicted to porn was a good use of my time.

But I couldn't stop watching...and here's why...


I wanted to see it. I wanted to see this messed up guy figure it out and get to a point in his life where he didn't need porn to feel satisfied.

I'm not going to give away the ending and spoil it for you, but I can say that Don Jon is an excellent example of character development throughout a story. It's an interesting commentary on human behavior and although there is a ton of swearing and a few scene that would make me die if my parents walked into the room, I am really glad I watched it.

As a writer, I always try to ensure that my characters grow in one way or another. I want readers to close my books feeling satisfied, knowing that at least one of my characters has reached a higher level in their life...a new plain of understanding. They've waded through all the crap I've made them endure and come out as better people. To me, that's a satisfying story - no matter what genre you're reading or watching, if characters are changing for the better by the end, you know you've just witnessed something cool. That's how I feel anyway.

How about you?
Have you seen or read any really good stories lately that have depicted remarkable character growth?

As writers, I think we need to keep this in the forefront of our minds. I know I'm probably stating the obvious when I say this, but our characters must grow. By how much is up to you, but you want your readers to like your main character even more by the end of your book. One really awesome book I read that helped me understand character growth was Story by Robert McKee. That has some excellent chapters on how to create flawed characters that you can take somewhere.

Writers, have you read any great books on character development lately?

I just want to end by saying this...I think the reason we all like to see characters grow is because it gives us hope in humanity. If people can overcome what they're facing, then we can to. We can learn so much from watching flawed people learn from their mistakes, because ultimately, everyone on this planet is flawed in one way or another...and we all have room to grow.


  1. I was also conflicted by wanting to watch this (still haven't yet). An interview with Joseph G-L made it sound great, but then the marketing of the movie seemed to exploit the porn part (am I surprised? No.)

    I recently watched the first season of Hannibal which is also excellent for character study (it's also extremely disturbing and gory, so fair warning). I also love Justified (keeping w/ the TV theme) which plays with the ideas of good and bad and of loyalty. Given both of these series are based on books is maybe a clue they have more depth.

    1. Yes! I often think movies and TV shows that are based on books are the best...they just have that little something extra. Thanks for your comments, Steph :)