What Does Story Need to Provide? Part One, Believable Character Development

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My apologies for the radio silence the past few weeks! I didn’t realize I needed a hiatus until it simply happened, but I’m back and good to go! Today, as my title states, I’m going to discuss character development after recently watching a movie that highlighted some what-not-to-dos when it comes to any fiction writing. This post turned into a two-parter because I found I had a lot to say.

If you haven’t seen The Last Witch Hunter, I warn you now that I will be spoiling the story. As someone who hates spoilers it’s only fair that I warn you.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Witch Hunter; it isn’t a high-art film, but it’s great movie for what it is: A high action fantasy. Over the course of about two hours, we follow a few days in the life of ancient warrior Kaulder, a human cursed by the evil Witch Queen 800 years ago. Since then, he has served as a weapon for an ancient society currently run out of a Catholic Church in New York City. When Kaulder’s elderly handler is attacked he discovers a plot to bring back the Witch Queen. While doing his best to prevent her resurrection, he encounters a present-day witch who becomes a main ally thanks to an ancient betrayal he also uncovers. In the midst of all this he spends some screen time with his handler’s young replacement.

I’m not the one with the movie’s character development issues but I’ll start there. The person I was watching with found it very difficult to buy the bond that develops between Kaulder and the present-day witch, Chloe. The pair meet for the first time when he goes to her witch bar to buy a memory potion. He seemingly consorts with his “enemy” in order to access the memories of his death since that is the only way to figure out what is going on. Just as he’s getting to the significant part of his memory, the bar is attacked and set on fire by the dark witch trying to bring back the Witch Queen.

Since Kaulder is indestructible thanks to his curse he lives to fight another day. Chloe’s life is in tatters since her livelihood has been burned to the ground and the enemy is trying to kill her for helping Kaulder.

There’s a mini moment where Kaulder saves her life from the enemy and from that point on they are basically inseparable. As many of her friends are killed in the city she only has Kaulder to console her. The movie doesn’t paint their relationship as overly romantic, but there is chemistry. Had they jumped into bed together, as so very many movies make male and female allies do, I would have scoffed and agreed with my viewing partner.

They didn’t sleep together though, and while I think their friendship progressed quickly I also think that such life or death circumstances can throw people together like that. And chemistry makes up a lot of the difference; in other circumstances they likely would never have met, but with their world falling apart they were given the opportunity and the means to hurdle walls that may have cropped up.

Still, I understand where my viewing partner is coming from. Perhaps a previous, friendly relationship would have worked better for him but I don’t think that was necessary. As a fantasy connoisseur, I would have been more suspect of a previous friendly relationship given the way the witch community views Kaulder (he is the last witch hunter after all). But that comes down to audience preference and only the author can make the final call.

What are your thoughts on this kind of character development? Next week I cover the part of the movie I struggled with: A terrible plot twist.

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