Monday, September 7, 2009


(Another great guest blog from Chris Soth. As many books and articles I've read over the year on CASABLANCA, Chris provides new insight into that classic.)


So, last Newsletter I was talking about how all your characters MIGHT be arranged on a "thematic continuum" where they all illustrate different aspects of your central theme –

-- and specifically, how you might create (at least) two characters as mirrors for your hero, and further, (and here's where I MIGHT be getting a bit original, at least I've never heard this said in quite this way) –

You MIGHT think of creating a mirror character at each end of your hero's character arc. That is, among your subsidiary characters might be one character who represents what your hero SHOULD BE, what he will be if s/he undergoes the change this story is driving them through, I think I called him the "YOU OUGTA BE THIS GUY" GUY, but maybe we could call him "THE SHINING EXAMPLE" – AND –

-- a character who serves as "THE CAUTIONARY TALE". That is, a guy or gal who shows us, and perhaps our protagonist, what they will become if they DO NOT change and serves as a stark warning against the folly of proceeding through life as such a flawed character.

And now, some examples:

Call me old-fashioned, but I love me the Casablanca. It's great for examples and I've learned a lot, A LOT from it, because, well...'s a perfect movie. It's not my favorite movie of all time, but it IS a perfect movie or as near as has ever been made, and there may not have been one since. In fact, whenever I'm stuck for a scene, or wonder what a specific Mini-Movie should be in a story, it's not long before I'm asking myself:

"What do they do in Casablanca?" And trying to apply that to the story I'm working on at the time.

But that's another newsletter...SO...

In Casablanca, we've got Rick Blaine (as portrayed by Humphrey Bogart), he's an isolationist, won't stick his neck out for nobody, and serves only his self interest, especially when it comes to the woman he loves, Ilsa…

HE OUGHTA BE: Victor Lazlo (as portrayed by Paul Henreid), a selfless freedom fighter, who sticks his neck out for everyone, everywhere – and who will gladly sacrifice anything, everything for the woman he loves, Ilsa Lund.

And in fact, it looks like this is who Rick will become as the credits roll, as his character arc has completed – "Where I go, you can't follow, etc..." he's off to become a freedom fighter, to take on the Nazis and fight for the little guy, as he used to before Ilsa broke his heart in the backstory.

But...if Rick keeps up his selfish ways, he'll never be that guy. In fact, he'll become:

THE CAUTIONARY TALE: Captain "Louie" Renault (as portrayed by Claude Rains). Here's a man who "blows with the wind" and serves only his own self-interest...and when it comes to love – Louie's happy to "whore out" any or every woman he comes across...and his doing so w/a young Bulgarian refugee serves as an object lesson for Rick at one point...

This is what Rick has to avoid – and in the end, Louie ends up changing too, and heading off into the future WITH Rick.

So, Victor Lazlo, Captain Renault...both mirrors to Rick Blaine. One is what Rick SHOULD be…the other what he COULD become...

Thanks for reading, hope this helps in your writing and thoughts about character. And if you want a brand new way of looking at story, please take a look at the eBook and DVD set at...

Thanks "A Million",

Chris Soth

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