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11/07/2006: Want = Pain
Let's suppose you're creating a lead character for your spec pilot. You know you want to give him something to want (a possession, a person, a goal, an accomplishment, a state of mind..). And you know you also want to give him some kind of vulnerability to make him lovable, and to make the audience worry about him.
Well, once you've given him that thing to want -- hey! -- you've got vulnerability built in! The fear of not getting it, of getting it and losing it, of not being worthy of it, of having it stolen, of realizing it's not a worthy goal, of realizing it doesn't exist, all these are really cool vulnerabilities. And, most importantly, you get to play with what the character has to endure or to risk to go after that thing that they want. Every desire brings vulnerability with it.
So when you're building that character, don't just think about the thing they want, but think about how wanting that thing makes them vulnerable. A great example of this is the main character in Ugly Betty. Betty wants a career in publishing, and to get it she's willing to put herself into a world where she's open to ridicule every day. Totally vulnerable, totally lovable. Come to think of it, it's the same formula that makes American Idol such a juggernaut: kids enduring insults and talent limitations in pursuit of a dream! The pain is part of the wanting. The pain IS the wanting.
Now, not every character is as transparent as Betty or Clay Aiken. What House wants is more complicated, since I don't think he knows what it is that he really wants (peace in the form of loving acceptance, I'd say, but I'm a big softie). But, anyway, the Betty model is a pretty darn useful one.
Lunch: chili with artichoke hearts topped with avocado