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On the Topic of Character Development

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Hey, folks. Dr. Porter here, and I wanna take a few minutes to talk about character development and some misconceptions about it. Character development is the process of fleshing out a fictional character through background, depth, and conflict. In my opinion, some people seem to think that character development is equivalent to screen time. I don't think this is the case. And I'm going to tell you why in this blog post.

Let's take a few examples from the TV show on why character development isn't the same as screen time. First, we'll start with our old prison buddy, Oscar.

When Oscar was first introduced in episode 2 of season 3, people were excited. We didn't have the official character for either Dexter or Thomas Richards. Sure, we had Tomas, the crazy, power-hungry murderer who lasted a whole forty minutes, but he wasn't the same as Dexter, the comic book counterpart leader of the prisoners. So, people relied on Oscar to, hopefully, provide a more lasting antoganist for Rick and his group. They didn't get this however, as he turned out being an ally for a few episodes before his, as a lot of people think, untimely demise.

I, however, thought that Oscar was perfect in his short lived duration, but I don't have a very popular opinion. The reason a lot of people were upset about Oscar's death was because they felt there was a lot of potential that was lost when Maggie shot the sucker in the head. Did he have a chance to become a major character? Absolutely. Am I upset that he didn't? Not really.

With characters like Oscar, for me, less is more. We never really knew if Oscar was a good guy or a bad guy until he shot Andrew in the forehead. From then until episode 8, we knew that Oscar was completely with Rick's group. We never knew much about his previous life, or how he ended up in the prison in the first place. We can assume it was murder, as when Rick was holding him at gunpoint, he said that he didn't beg for his life when faced with the charge, and he wasn't going to when Officer Friendly was about to kill him.

This ambiguity in his background is one reason I thought Oscar was more fleshed out. But not in the traditional way. For me, I don't want a character to explain his background through dialog. I enjoy either it being shown/implied at as time goes on, or it being up to the audience. I didn't need to be told that Oscar lived a terrible life or he was forced to join a gang in order to support his kids. No, I can just make up my own backstory for him.

Character development can be created through silence. It can be created through dialog, or it can be created through demise. But there's one thing for sure, it's not solely created in screen time.

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