The Incredibles 2, the sequel to Pixar’s iconic superhero film, offers writers the opportunity to enhance our understanding of effective character development. Here are a few lessons from the movie that you can apply in your fiction.
*** Warning! Article contains spoilers of the movie.
I felt it wise to share this article because it talks about the growth of characters. Flanagan says, “Obstacles force our characters to face their biggest fears, confront enemies, and realize how strong they really are. Do you put your characters in situations that will help them grow? Are you pushing them far enough to hit them deep at their core? The lower the characters falls physically, emotionally and spiritually, the more room they have for growth.”
If you want your characters to grow, then you’re going to have to push them down. I’ve read a few books where it doesn’t feel like the main character’s “problems” are as big of a deal as they’re being made out to be, or when the MC does something, then feels bad about it, but in my eyes that “something” wasn’t as big of a deal as the MC makes it. Sometimes it feels like the fall isn’t steep enough to cause the emotional repercussions that it does – like the author is making it seem worse than it is for the sake of plot.
Flanagan distinguishes between motivation and conflict; a character’s motivation is what drives them, what makes them get out of bed in the morning, and is central to the character’s personality, whereas the conflict arises from something that challenges that motivation, either by stimulating it or removing it or pushing against it.
P.S. – The Incredibles 2 is a fantastic movie. Amazing storytelling, amazing character growth, and amazing animation (the textures and lighting were phenomenal! There were a few times when characters’ clothing had knit or sweater textures, and it was so realistic! and the lighting, oh, the lighting! The clouds and the sunlight and the shadows – it was beautiful. It had amazing environmental foreshadowing – I called the villain because of how the lighting hit the character.)
And… spoilers below in white. It’s mostly me fan-girling – about the movie and it’s story telling/character development elements.
I loved how Mr. Incredible is taken out of his “masculine” routine and learns to be a stay-at-home Dad; he wants to be the center-of-attention hero again, the “big strong man,” and he’s not – his wife is – and it bothers him. Then, character growth happens, and he gets over it. Fantastic character development regarding a strong male lead breaking out of that stereotype. He learns to let his wife be the big strong hero, while he’s taking care of the kids. It’s a role reversal, and it worked.
I loved that there are multiple strong female characters and they each play an important role. There’s not just “the girl” character. I loved that Elastagirl isn’t the “pretty rescue-me princess” type. She’s a superhero, mother of three, and super-cool wife. She’s not in the movie to fall in love – she’s already in love, and the relationship between her and her husband only grows stronger.
I loved the family-first feeling that runs through the whole movie, and how it’s not just one character’s heroism that saves the day – it’s everyone’s. It’s a team effort, and had one of them not been in the final fight, they would have lost.
I love that this movie is just a little darker than the typical Disney-Pixar film; there are fight scenes – people get punched and kicked – and there are sweeping actions scenes, the adults have cocktails (they call it drinking, too.) The character development is had by all, and everything is intertwined in a marvelous, amazing way, so that the movie feels smooth, expertly put together, and did I mention the lighting?