The World’s Greatest

Everybody seems to be raving about Breaking Bad lately from a scriptwriting point of view. Whilst I can’t argue with the logic I have to admit to having not seen the show at all (my previously point about my lack of TV watching applies here). I downloaded the first episode through a promotion on Xbox Live but then, wonderfully, I didn’t work when I tried to stream it through my Xbox so I skipped. A discussion on Shooting People this week focussed on the main character Walter as a basis of writing good central characters. ‘Make your main character great at something’ he said, arguing that people want to see people being good at stuff. Walter is a brilliant chemist and this is apparently what drives the story. Even characters which are complete deadbeats are, it would seem, still included. Renton from Trainspotting might be a drug addict but he’s brilliant at scoring heroin for example.


I can certainly see the point he’s making and it has made me go back to think on previous characters I’ve written in the past. John in Robotics in a bit of a loser but he is very good at making robots, to the point he can make an exact copy of himself which passes off for him at his workplace. It’s either his skill that allows him to do this or his workmates just ignore him as he goes about his business. I’d like to think it’s a bit of both if I’m honest.

Edward in Seven Lucky Stars was a brilliant host of a game show, it’s just that his boss didn’t seem to think so and wanted to get someone better.

Tony in The Unlocked Project was pretty much only good at sudoku, which is possibly why that didn’t turn out so good.

So writers, what do we think of this ‘expert’ theory?

3 thoughts on “The World’s Greatest

  1. Weirdly I have almost the exact opposite approach.

    By and large all of my characters are, as I’ve grown accustomed to calling them, ‘crippling non-entities’. They are every-men. As distinctly average at life as it is possible to be.

    On top of that, I then pile the character weaknesses – Social awkwardness, obsessed with power, inability to function in role x, etc.

    Basically, my characters are hopeless. Average folk, not doing well.

    And then these poor folk are chucked into extraordinary situations to see how they cope. I don’t want to see folk thriving – I like to watch them *struggle*.

    …But maybe that’s just me!

  2. I know the post is a few years old but..

    I find alot of advice dished out has some purpose and sometimes works, but is often said as if fact, a necessity to story.

    I don’t think a character has to be great at anything for a compelling story, but naturally in life people do have a talent at something usually from playing guitar to making a hand fart.
    It all depends on the story. I find realism, dialogue and character bring me into a characters world more than their ability.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s