Storytellers thread - You gotta have heart

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megrar
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Post by megrar » Thu Nov 09, 2006 9:49 am

i found Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon unsatisfying as well. i approved of Xiaolong's end--she really didn't deserve to be happy after her repeatedly selfish actions--but the end of master Li just felt gratuitous. "everybody's miserable, the end."

i'm sure everyone's heard the saying "you like a man for his traits, but love him for his flaws"? perfect characters don't touch people. stories about saving the world are never characterized as "having heart." heart has to be about internal struggle and growth, about personal failings. nobody wins at everything, nor should they. i remember being extremely sensitive to that as a child. the original star trek, the first few disney princess movies--anything people showed me that had "ideal" heroes or heroines was flat out rejected. they bored me, i had no connection to snow white or captain kirk.

however, firefly, the little mermaid, lilo and stitch, blankets, sandman--these all have flawed protagonists i can attach to. even AI, which i hear did miserably, had wonderfully touching characters. heart isn't about plot or justice, it's about whether or not you can feel for the people you're expected to watch. it's not even necessarily about character development, because you can feel for a static, one-panel bit character if it's written/drawn right.

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Og
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Post by Og » Thu Nov 09, 2006 9:55 am

megrar wrote:i'm sure everyone's heard the saying "you like a man for his traits, but love him for his flaws"?
I hadn't heard that one, but that's a great statement.
megrar wrote:stories about saving the world are never characterized as "having heart."
I think that's probably a pretty accurate barometer, taken as an icon.
megrar wrote:firefly, the little mermaid, lilo and stitch, blankets, sandman--these all have flawed protagonists i can attach to.
I've noticed that, particularly with firefly. The farther down the road to imperfection Malcolm Reynolds goes, the more I recognize him. He has a lot in common with Indiana Jones, too.
megrar wrote:even AI, which i hear did miserably, had wonderfully touching characters. heart isn't about plot or justice, it's about whether or not you can feel for the people you're expected to watch. it's not even necessarily about character development, because you can feel for a static, one-panel bit character if it's written/drawn right.
I loved AI, and felt a lot -- even got choked up several times during the film, but I felt very manipulated. But it is amazing how much I cared about that little robot boy.
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Kid Galactus
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Post by Kid Galactus » Sat Nov 11, 2006 4:18 pm

I think that "heart" as you've put it, comes from things that we feel are geniune, or ingenious. And has a lot to do with the hustle put into the production of this narrative by the people producing it. I think it's entirely possible, and I'm sure there's precedent for this, that even BAD or poorly realized stories can have tons of heart.

Another angle of attack would be sort of the idea that 'heart' is tied to feelings. There are certain themes that we all understand and have our own opinions on. Things like longing, wanting to be the best, being an outcast, feeling inadequate and revenge are some of those. If in the cobbling of a story you can present these things in a way that people recognize, whether they react favorably, or unfavorably they WILL react.

I used to Caricature out at Disney World and for a brief time a guy named Joe Bluhm... who was at the time perhaps the single greatest working caricaturist working in the world, said to me:

"If you're happy with what you're doing, and you believe in it, it doesn't matter if it's flattering or unflattering to the people. If you tell the truth, they will react."

I think the seeking of reaction, for me, in the least is what gives other peoples stories, and hopefully mine that thing. It's ultimately unimportant whether or not they agree with what you're saying, but VERY important that you give them that idea as geniunely as you can, you spark something genuine in them .

I hope any of that makes sense.

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Og
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Post by Og » Sat Nov 11, 2006 5:22 pm

Yeah... yeah, I think you're on the button there. People do respond to Truth.

And the notion is applicable across a multitude of media... film, yes, but also novels, graphic or otherwise, songs, and even the still image.

But the neat thing I see from this thread... each Creative thinks his personal passion is the Thing at the heart of, well, Heart. Story people think it's all about Story, Character people think it's all about Character, and so on. I'm sure there's someone out there right now who only draws stick men, and they're screaming at the computer screen - IT'S ALL ABOUT THE STICK, MAN!

*shrug*

Me? I'm feeling more like the Tin Man every moment. "...if I only had a..."
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Post by jdalton » Sat Nov 11, 2006 11:01 pm

Crown me the king of sidetrack, but I'm curious- Hollywood obviously has tugging on people's heart strings down to a formula, but I don't think any such formula exists for comics. I want to know what comics people have read that they think have a lot of heart- and why, if you know why.

Personally, only two comics have ever managed to bring a tear to my eye (shut-UP! I know I'm just a big emo sap, alright?) :roll: *ahem*, anyways, the comics in question were Barefoot Gen, because how could it not, and Ghost World. It's a little difficult to say why these two are so powerful, but I guess it does have something to do with Truth, yeah. And great characters. Though not justice at all, which pretty much blows my theory.

shut-up! *sob*
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Re: Storytellers thread - You gotta have heart

Post by Blom » Sun Nov 12, 2006 9:19 am

Og wrote: 2. WRITERS: What techniques do you use to make sure you keep the heart in your work?
1. Know the rule of the type of story you write.
2. See the story trough the right eyes in your story..
3. Write write write, First you write with your heart, then you rewrite it with your brain.
4. Close your eyes and feel your way trough. And go new ways.
5. Kill your darlings (well, don´t keep something in your story if you like it and it does not move the story forward.)
6. Break rule nr 1 when you know how to.
7. Put your story way for about a year, and then see it with new eyes.
8. HAVE FUN! If you don´t have fun making it then you will lose yer heart in your work.
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Post by Sankam » Mon Nov 20, 2006 9:09 pm

megrar wrote:heart isn't about plot or justice, it's about whether or not you can feel for the people you're expected to watch.
I think this is really close to the mark. A story moves me when I care about the protagonist, and I want them to get what they want. What they want becomes as important to me as it is to them, even if it is something I would not neccessarily want for myself.

I want Amelie to find love. I want Mrs. Brisby to save her sick son. I want Marlin to find Nemo, Danny to land a big part, Luke to redeem his father. It's not that I don't know they're going to succeed, it's that I don't know how they are going to succeed, and I am going through their trials along with them.

I think the reason that many of the old Disney fairy tales have charm but not 'heart,' is because the characters have no flaws, so you can't relate to them, and/or the plot goes exactly how you expect it to. (I still like them. Charm goes a long way.) Often I end up liking the villains better, because they seem more like real people.

When writing, I try to define what it is a character wants, to make it hard to get, and to attach some sort of price the character would rather not pay. I try not to make my characters too perfect. Then I pray that the readers will connect. ^^U
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Post by parka » Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:38 am

Heart of the movie definitely depends on how much emotional attachment there is between the viewer and the characters. The heart of the movie is what separates a good movie from a great movie. And I believe that time won't be able to break it down either.

How is emotional attachment created? I don't have answers but here's what I feel.

1. There must be character transformation. E.g. Oscar Schindler transformation from a money minded businessman to someone who saves the lives of people. E.g. Lightning Mcqueen philosophy in racing and in life.

2. Characters often have to go through great hurdles in life and overcome them, for a purpose. E.g. Spider-man. Finding Nemo.

3. Characters must be someone we can relate to. E.g. Peter Parker in spider-man represents the common people.

4. Characters must truly feel for other characters on the set.

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Post by Dresden Codak » Sat Nov 25, 2006 6:21 pm

2001: A Space Oddessy is regarded by many people to be one of the greatest films of all time, though I would hardly describe it as having "heart," at least by the definition of having emotionally charged content. In fact, it's a very cold and distant film for the most part. The reason, in my mind, that it can still be "great" is that although the actual content is dry, it is able to evoke both an intellectual and emotional response in the viewer. "Heart," to me, lies in relatable characters. I do not think this is essential to a good piece of art, as there are other ways to relate to your audience besides characters.
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Sankam
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Post by Sankam » Sat Nov 25, 2006 11:11 pm

Dresden Codak wrote:"Heart," to me, lies in relatable characters. I do not think this is essential to a good piece of art, as there are other ways to relate to your audience besides characters.
I agree, Dresden. 2001 was an extraordinary work, but 'heart' wasn't one of its outstanding qualities. (Though it was in 2010.)
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Post by parka » Sun Nov 26, 2006 8:23 pm

How do you know if your story has heart?
Turn off all the visuals and drawings and just listen to the story.

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Post by Reagan » Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:45 am

I think someone can still put their heart in a story, yet still not resonate with the audience.

One example for me was Pride of Baghdad. I can tell it was something the creator(s) were deeply interested and passionate about doing, yet I didn't feel what the book was telling me I should be feeling. The ending was supposed to shock you with tragedy, it had a big "THIS IS SAD" sign over it, yet there was no connection to me when I read it. After I put it down I didn't think about it at all afterwards like I did with, say, 300. After I read 300 I would often think back on it and almost not believe what happened in it, so I'd literally go back to read it, hoping that Leonidas and the Spartans would somehow survive, yet the story's the same each time. But somehow, Frank Miller made it so hard-hitting that you just felt right there with the characters and their struggle, and so you'd just be in near disbelief over what happens to them.

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Post by Reagan » Thu Dec 07, 2006 11:51 am

Sankam wrote:I want Amelie to find love. I want Mrs. Brisby to save her sick son. I want Marlin to find Nemo, Danny to land a big part, Luke to redeem his father. It's not that I don't know they're going to succeed, it's that I don't know how they are going to succeed, and I am going through their trials along with them.

I think the reason that many of the old Disney fairy tales have charm but not 'heart,' is because the characters have no flaws, so you can't relate to them, and/or the plot goes exactly how you expect it to. (I still like them. Charm goes a long way.) Often I end up liking the villains better, because they seem more like real people.

When writing, I try to define what it is a character wants, to make it hard to get, and to attach some sort of price the character would rather not pay. I try not to make my characters too perfect. Then I pray that the readers will connect. ^^U
YES. That's exactly it.

And The Secret of NIMH is probably my all-time favorite example of an animated film with real heart in it. The sense of character in it was so strong and perfectly balanced.. And the fact that the villains were really villains made it more intense. Jenner wasn't some comical bumbling fruitcake in a funny costume, he was manipulative and cold-blooded, and Don Bluth managed to pull that off without being unecessarily graphic or giving away secrets.

Again, NIMH had the same effect 300 did for me. At the end, there's this big "Holy crap, is it really over? Did he or she really die?" kind of subtle disbelief that made me keep going back to the story over and over.

Also, another example I just thought of was the director's cut of Blade Runner.

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Post by klammed » Sun Dec 10, 2006 1:14 am

[sidetracking here...]

I think that's pretty much it, yeah. This is why so many good writers are angsty or chronically depressed or otherwise tragic figures (and it has to be real angst- plain old middle class teenage "I listen to Marilyn Manson because I hate everything" angst isn't enough!)
Angst is an odd thing. It's usually what fuels alot of people's creative outlets, teenagers especially. All that emo-poetry thing... blogs, you name it. And as Galactus said,
Another angle of attack would be sort of the idea that 'heart' is tied to feelings. There are certain themes that we all understand and have our own opinions on. Things like longing, wanting to be the best, being an outcast, feeling inadequate and revenge are some of those. If in the cobbling of a story you can present these things in a way that people recognize, whether they react favorably, or unfavorably they WILL react.
We relate to human flaws, because we see those flaws in ourselves. We relate to the desire to overcome flaws, because we all know that we're not perfect, yet strive to attain perfection. Conflict, internal, external, it's what drives a story. Conflict more often than not, is pretty full of angst (R&J).

Where do we draw the line between something that touches the audience and something that just revulses because it screams wallowing in self-glorified-pity?

I'll admit I'm having that problem discerning right now. My next comic journal entry will probably be more than a touch angsty. It's a struggle to keep something I genuinely want to say (not that it's terribly important) from turning into pointless melodrama, which I don't want (obv).

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