Jonathan J Michael here, hoping to enthrall the world with magical insights and wisdom. Don’t know where that load of nonsense just came from, but if this post inspires at least one individual to be creative, or simply brings back fond memories from some dated films, then it’s successful.
If you write, you might understand that the characters are far more important than the plot. If you don’t understand that, then now you know. They’re lovable, they’re despicable, they’re flawed. They connect to the reader more so than any plot point in the epic journey. And of these characters, most audiences likely gravitate toward the heroes or the villains. They are important, despite what I’m about to dive into.
Me, I’m not always drawn to the main character. Now, something you should know about me, I’m an oddball. So it makes sense, that the characters I find most appealing in the fictional realm are oddballs as well. Note, fictional is the key word there. In reality, I keep my distance, even if I am one.
Heroes are stale. (That is a bold statement to make. LOL. Not always, of course. But in comparison to what is to come, absolutely.) They have been plunged into the unknown via whatever inciting incident that caused them to flee their normal environment. They are serious, working toward a goal and rarely experiencing anything resembling a joyous occasion accept when they’ve overcome a pinch point in their battle against evil, and in the epilogue, after they’ve vanquished the evil tyrant. They are vital, as they’re typically the protagonist, and their stories inspire, but their personalities tend to be stale. It’s not their fault. They’re going through a traumatic event in their lives and they’re teaching us good values.
Then there are the villains. Villains tend to have more pizazz, with a mysterious motive for gaining power over everything and everyone. And they likely already have impossible achievements recorded in their books. They are bold, potentially dangerous and, often times, powerful. And they are the entire reason the heroic journey even takes place. Without the villain, their would be no tale to tell. But how could they possibly inspire when all their actions include victims. All great deeds are dwindled to malice when they involve victims.
I’m drawn to the oddballs because they give a story life; depth; humor; quirkiness; and often motivation. In the end, they supplement a story in a way that makes an impact. And they are fun to write because their story, their actions, their dialogue, can be so off the wall and it doesn’t matter because they don’t require a character arc of their own.
There are far too many to give credit to, but here are a few examples…
Aughra – Dark Crystal: Fresh on the mind from the recent Netflix release, she’s the protector of Thra and the crystal. Her role offers guidance that helps Rian conquer the Skeksis. And her appeal is in her hideous nature. She could be the offspring of a wookie, Skeletor and a bighorn sheep. It’s audacious. And to have a matching personality along side it makes her a memorable character and gives depth to the story in a way that lets the audience know she’s been around a long time and has experienced more than the rest of us.
Sir Didymus – Labyrinth: Sir Didymus is a tiny pup with tiny pup syndrome. Most characters in this cult classic are oddballs, but the main reason Sir Didymus stands out is because he’s a terrier that utilizes a sheep dog as his destrier to go into battle. Who in their right mind would create a dog riding a dog. A creative genius. With astounding courage he offers the story humor and a challenge for the main character, Sarah, before becoming her ally. He inspires the small to step up and make a big impact. A big personality in a little pup.
Monkeybird – Mirrormask: Sorry, sticking to a Jim Henson theme here, but they create stellar oddballs. This character is just as it’s named. An ape-looking creature with incredible high bar skills and wings. And a detachable beak. Odd. A quiet character, but a character nonetheless. There are multiple of these creatures, but one in particular risks his life (I’m assuming male based on the masculine physique) to save Helena (the MC) from the shadows. Even with his quiet nature, you gain an understanding of his virtue based on his actions. He offers the story intrigue and hope.
Yoda – Star Wars: Not much needs to be said about this vital character in the Star Wars ennealogy (had to look that one up). He is the perfect combination of wisdom, virtue and quack. This character trope would typically be played by a tall, old man with a long beard. But this one could fit right in on another Jim Henson stage. A character that can fall into many categories, and oddball is one of them.
Teek – Battle for Endor: He’s a mischievous thief that could compete with Flash in a race, if the DC universe followed the laws of physics. (Tachyons aren’t real. Photons are the universal speed limit.) Teek is a hero in his own right, but not the main character. His unnatural speed proves valuable with a great impact on the outcome. Do an image search and you’ll understand that a picture is worth only one word. Oddball.
Radagast the Brown – The Hobbit: Seemingly a quack. But this one has a hidden wisdom that only reveals itself when he so desires. He rides a sled pulled by rabbits and is concerned not with the one ring that rules them all, but with the flora and fauna of Middle Earth. The wise kook is one that I find extremely intriguing with his careless nature and heroic actions.
Screwball – Legend: Hard to say this character is the most memorable in this film. Darkness, played by Tim Curry, was phenomenal. Every Halloween I wish I could trick-or-treat in that costume. (I said I was an oddball.) But this isn’t about Darkness. Screwball is one of the only comedic reliefs in this dark fantasy about good vs. evil. He’s a dwarf who resentfully falls into a hero’s journey as one of Jack’s companions. His cowardice is a humorous bright light in a dark winter.
I enjoy thinking back on these characters, as they inspire the creativity that can be had. One character from my own tale that fits this oddball description is Chief Graytu. He’s a rhyming, old kook that allows falderal to escape his tongue regularly, constantly making riddles out of what could be a simple conversation. He was my favorite character to write, simply because of his personality. I aspire to be him when I’m over a century old.
And if you haven’t seen these movies. Find them. And see them.