Thursday, February 16, 2012

Foil Characters

A few months ago I won a full manuscript critique from Michelle Argyle. She sent it back with fantastic notes and ideas. Still, I was overwhelmed with the thought of revisions. My critique group suggested I set the story aside for a little while and look at it anew later.
I was going to follow their advice, I really was! Until I listened to a Writing Excuses podcast on foil characters.
What the heck?
The image of Joaquin Phoenix in a tinfoil hat came to mind. But that isn't what the podcast was teaching me.

Foil - a character that is used to enhance another character through contrast, highlighting strengths and weaknesses. Create characters in pairs like the straight man and the comedian or Cinderella’s grace and beauty as opposed to her nasty, self-centered stepsisters.

Here are a few other examples of foil characters:
Batman & Robin
Sherlock Holmes & Watson
Danny Glover and Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon)
Wise mentor & newcomer

The last example is the one that perked up Le Muse from a sleepy state of boredom. Siblings! I need to add a a sibling.
My story centers around Mandy, a girl who found out her mother is really an alien impostor and her father has been with holding this secret for years. She didn't want to believe there were aliens taking over her town or abducting boys until her father is taken.
Not really intense. But! Add a teasing brother who drives his sister nuts and not only believes in aliens but claims to have seen them. Mandy makes fun of him.  Not until the brother is abducted does she have to face the facts and save the day.
I'm happy to say I'm ready to do revisions now. Well, the job is still overwhelming but now I can move on to the next step and make this story better!

What foil characters come to your mind?  Do you have them in your story?

PS Don't you LOVE Joaquin in The Village? Best. Romantic. Scene. Ever.


Erin Shakespear said...

Great post....yes, foil characters. That's what I'm trying to do with two characters in my MG, but I hadn't thought about them like that before.

Julie Daines said...

So, I didn't know who posted this when I started reading. (I should have known by the photo.) I got to the part where the main character is Mandy and her mother is an alien and her dad-- Some one stole this story from Taffy!!! Oh is Taffy.

Haha! Great post though, and something to seriously thing about. I could use some foil characters in my stories.

Julie Daines said...

Also Signs? One of my all-time favs!

Taffy said...

I knew you'd like the reference to your fav movie, Julie! Thanks for watching out for me, too.

I hadn't thought about them at all,Erin! Where did I miss out on learning about foil characters? Good luck on your writing.

Kasey @ Mormon Mommy Writers said...

Ooh, foil characters. I had one, but didn't know that's what he's called. He's my self-centered cocky jerk who is partnered up with my conscientious, good-hearted main character. And no, they do not fall in love. ;-)

Yes, I LOVE the scene with Joaquin in The Village. Just goes to show that powerful love stories don't always require loads of dialogue and flirting.

Scott said...

Foils can be the most fun characters to write.