In a thread titled 'What is Deconstruction' (where, not astoundingly, everyone seems to not understand the term beyond the dictionary definition) I stumbled upon this quote from Byrne:
I have mentioned this before, but perhaps it is worth repeating. In journalism, there are the Five Ws -- "Who, What, Where, When and Why?" (Sometimes there is also "How", but that doesn't make for as catch a phrase.) In superhero comics it is usually only the first four with which we need concern ourselves, the "why" usually being very simple and handled in a couple of panels in the origin, if at all.
I tought that, this being a writer's forum, it was the right place to ask. Is that the approach a writer, from any medium, from any genre, should take?
Now, I'm not a writer (nor do I play one on TV) but it seems to me that Why is probably the most important question to be asked about any character. Without questioning their motivations we simple get plain, boring one dimensional characters; and unless the origin is intrinsically powerful and direct (like Batman or Spider-Man, and even there, is worth to be explored further) the 'Why' can't be addressed with 'couple of panels'
Byrne is especifically talking about superheroes, and since those are the types of comics I love the most, I ask, are they somehow 'unworthy' of a proper exploring of their behavior beyond 'they do it because it's the right thing to do'?
Sounds like pretty typical Byrne. Which is to say, clueless.
"Why?" is an extremely important question to me, if not the most important. Because everything a character does comes down to "Why does s/he act this way?". "Why?" is the question that brings me to motivation, which drives everything that my characters will ever do in a story. Without that, the characters don't make sense to me, and the story ultimately lacks.
"How?" is well up there for me too. What "how" does is explain how well the plot fits together. How does the character plan to achieve his goals? How does he deal with adversity? How do the characters survive at the end of the day? Which leads up to the big one: how do the characters change and grow as a result of the story?
To no one's surprise, Byrne missed the two important questions and focuses instead on the least important. I guess that explains why I don't read his comics anymore.
To expand a little upon the theme - look at any character who truly stands out in any story you have ever read in a novel or a comic, or seen in a film or on TV - are you ever in any doubt WHY this stand-out character does what they do?
Clear motivation adds whole dimensions to the characterisation that aimless and unmotivated characters cannot match.
Who - Start with the character Why - Why are they the way they are? What - Just wah sort of character are they Where - The world they inhabit when - basically a ppart of where for the purpose fo this I think how - porbably ties in more to who and why. how would be the wy the character accomplishes their goals.
at least thats how id think of it.
A Very Polcheck Christmas...From Outer Space! now up!
A clearly thought out character has clear reasons for his/her actions.
For instance, Marvel threw out a ton of characters in their Marvel Next wave. The one that had the most impact on me was Carmilla Black, the new Scorpion. Why? Because I knew why she was involved in the story.
Carmilla is a girl who's lived for her own survival until her life brutally changes. She feels like an outcast because of her powers, and wants an acceptance from society that she believes doesn't want her. She feels intense guilt for killing her boyfriend and for not being there to protect her adopted parents. She wants to uncover her past, wants to discover who she is and what her place in the world is. She also feels an unmet obligation to her adopted parents and wants justice for their deaths. Carmilla Black has lived with pain, regret, and anger for many years, and now she has to make a decision.
The more motivations in a character, I find, the more complex and realistic they are. Usually, the more complicated the "why" answer is, the more interesting I find the character. Motivations in conflict make for compelling drama.
All of that, based on one single basic question. But I guess we all can't be Byrne.
I'm not even a writer (okay, I DID do journalism in high school) but even *I* recognized that Byrne is totally off here. As a reader, "why" is very fundamental to me to understand what's going on. Is this not obvious to Byrne?