“Just about every other person you meet is a character.” This interesting statement came from a fellow member of the Grace Fellowship Writers group. As a writer learning how to develop characters for stories, I thought I should ponder this.
I realized that character development requires creating people with extraordinary – if not extreme – characteristics. Take, for example, the people of the NCIS television show.
Kate was fairly a bland, professional woman apart from her taking offense at Tony’s politically incorrect, macho attitudes. Ziva, on the other hand, is a small, exotic woman who could kill in a moment if the situation required. She intimidates Tony into controlling himself. I believe some question exists whether Ziva could take Gibbs in a fight.
And there’s Abby, the happy Goth. She enjoys wearing a spiked dog collar and dark clothing and sleeping in a coffin. But she’s happy – playful – in her attitudes. A genius forensic lab scientist and computer hacker, Abby is deeply emotional toward every member of the team.
Among the men, McGee comes off as innocent and slightly nerdy despite his protests. An electronics genius and published author, he’s often the butt of Tony’s jokes. Tony himself is eccentric, with his witty remarks; numerous references to old, classic movies; macho attitudes, and loyalty to each of the team members. Dr. “Ducky” Mallard talks to the bodies he autopsies, assesses the psychology of the team’s suspects, and loves to reminisce about events of his past.
Team leader, Jethro Gibbs hides a loyal heart under a crust of family loss and failed marriages. He disdains ceremony, authority structures, and sociable behaviors. He has refused to show up to receive numerous citations for valor, struggled with various bosses over procedures, and brought fixings for dinner rolls…just as they were starting to eat Thanksgiving dinner. But don’t mess with his team…or his Marines.
The accomplishment of the NCIS writers has been to blend these extraordinary characters into suspenseful plots and enjoyable conflicting interactions. Certainly I could learn much from watching the show.