What makes a good drama? Lucky for us, Aristotle did a pretty good job of answering that question three hundred and fifty years before the common era. Basically, it comes down to just a few important points:
- Plot – What is the story?
- Character – Who are the people driving the story?
- Theme – What are you saying with the story?
- Language – What is said during the story?
- Rhythm – How do you pace the story?
- Spectacle – How do you show and not tell the story?
In the last post, we scraped the surface of our plot, and today, I’d like to introduce you to the characters who will drive our tale.
In the tradition of Bill Murray or Ryan Reynolds, Elijah uses humor as a coping mechanism. His upbringing left him with an old-fashioned moral character. He’s a good friend and can be quite persuasive when encouraging others to follow their dreams. He has big dreams but never knowing how to realize them, he’s spent almost two decades squandering his talent.
Even Elijah’s friends would say Mo is out of his league. While he’s a cook at a chain restaurant, she’s a creative professional with a lucrative career. She’s smart, funny, and artistic. She dresses well, and on the occasion she’s wearing a t-shirt and leggings, they’re of her own design. Mo thinks she’s realizing all of her dreams, but her insecurities and a feeling of never being ready have held her back from realizing her fuller potential.
Ruth is close in age to Elijah, her little brother, but whereas he’s barely experienced anything, she’s been through enough for two lifetimes. A single mother and nurse doing her best, she’s the pragmatic one in the family. She’s fearless when she needs to attack the next obstacle, but when it comes to the trauma of the past, she’s afraid to let go. Still wounded from a messy divorce and the death of her mother, there are places Ruth simply won’t go.
Elijah’s neice is a typical nine-year-old with a passion for warrior princesses like She-Ra. Trying to avoid further tragedy, Ruth has instilled more than a healthy dose of fear into Cloe, which has inadvertently made the little girl afraid of new things. This might be the very reason Cloe is drawn to heroines, both real and imagined. It’s an unconscious act of rebellion and makes her feel a little braver when the nightlights of the world go out.
A contemporary of our hero, Victor is a man with a show business flair, but his theatrical days are behind him. He grew up with Elijah, but there was an added element that made his experience in a “traditional household” more difficult. His father disowned him when his sexuality became an unavoidable reality. This led to many years of turning to the bottle, but he’s clean now. Taking one day at a time, Victor is still learning how to love himself. Still preoccupied with how he’s perceived, Victor is known for flaunting his intellect and playing the victim to earn the sympathy of others. Believing himself to be content with where he is in life, subconsciously, he’s just playing things safe. He’s found happiness in living the “straight” life because deep down, he thinks it’s what would make his parents proud.
Vivacious and curvy, Dee is a radio personality with access to the party scene, and party, she does. Not one to go small with men or drink, Dee does everything to excess. She’s spent many years groping in dark places, trying to find herself. The illusion of being able to function in her day-to-day has fooled her into thinking she’s okay, but she’s burning at both ends. Something unexpectantly changed when she found out she’s pregnant, but despite her protest, she knows better than anyone just how precarious she is. Before she is ready to take care of a baby, she will have to learn how to take care of herself. If she had greater self-awareness, she’d know it didn’t take a child to make her worthy of getting healthy. Dee is amazing on her own merits.
If Andy Dwyer and April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation had a daughter, she’d grow up to be Billie. Alternating between saying legitimately dumb things and sarcastic things that sometimes sound dumb, she’s a walking enigma. Whereas most of the cast are middle-class folks in their late thirties or early forties, Billie is in her early twenties and used to poverty. She’s inexperienced and a bit naïve, but she has some kind of innate guru wisdom about certain things. Part of her limited view of the world pertains to how she sees success. She’s aware there are people who have made grand accomplishments, but she doesn’t know anyone. It seems like some great mystery to her, and she assumes there must be other powers, such as nepotism or systemic privilege, at play. It will take more than encouragement to help her realize her potential.
The manifestation of Elijah’s theatrical imagination, he wears a top hat and coat with tails. He carries an old suitcase and a wooden cane. In the play Elijah has buried in his mind, Ashley is a salesman of wishes. While the dreams he sells always come with a catch, Ashley isn’t some demonic dealmaker. Oh no. He’s a true believer in miracles who wants only the best for his customers. When he appears as a vivid hallucination to Elijah, he is driven by one simple motivation: he wants to live before Elijah dies.
These are the major characters of “Peaking,” but there are many more that will appear and delight you. In the comments section, let’s play a little game. Who would you like to see play these parts when the series is finally brought to life?