A Writer’s Characters Analysis : Doc Martin

DOC MARTIN'S SURGERY
Image by gazzat via Flickr

 Analysis of Characters & Character Arc : Doc Martin Episodes 1-9  

In between writing, blogging, editing, recording, podcasting, working, spending time with my husband I’ve just started watching the English television series Doc Martin. The series is about a doctor that moves from the big city to a small coastal village. He loves being a doctor but is horrible at communicating and this of course conflicts with the friendliness and quirkiness of small town life.  

The show is filled with quirky and flawed characters, doctor who dislikes people and has a blood phobia, a plumber who can’t fix anything, a cop who’s more of a camp counselor, the lady who owns the fish shop that hyperventilates all the time, the pharmacist that says sorry every 2 seconds, the assistant who is incompetent, the list could go on. Myers Briggs tests would be fun to do for these characters.   

Character Profiles & Developing a Character Arc

Watching this show with its hopelessly flawed characters has pushed my writer’s mind to think about how so much of a characters profile leads to their likeability or lack of is based on their inherent flaws, vulnerabilities, appearance, secrets, mannerisms, etc. and compare it to what writer’s know and understand about writing characters. The characters and the conflicts are the key elements in the story. The protagonist and antagonist motivations move the story from beginning to end. There are archetypes for genders, as well as profiling types that help lay out the characters habits, flaws, vulnerabilities, strengths, etc. With change and a moment of enlightenment, this could be for multiple characters, a character arc is developed. A memorable character starts out on one end of the spectrum and for the most part ends up on the other end, or at least not where he started.  

When I think about this and I compare it with the characters in Doc Martin (for the first 9 episodes) it seems that the character arcs are either slowly developing or not strongly defined. Let’s take Doc Martin, I cannot figure out what his motivation is besides healing. We know why he is there, we know he hates it, but he still stays. It doesn’t seem that Louisa Glasson, the local school teacher and love interest, really has that much of a pull for him as it does for her. He’s had plenty of ‘oh yeah’ moments but is none the wiser for it. All I can think is there has to be something more they are not letting us in on. If the main character deosn’t move forward where is the story really going to go?   

Change Pushes Characters Forward

Leading up to 9 episodes there have been several moments of change for certain characters but no moments of real enlightenment. Sure the characters know when they’ve stuck their foot in the mouth but then they do it again and again. It seems that the characters are to stuck in old patterns to really change. In the Episode “Blood is Thicker” there was a character that had a strongly defined character arc. This episode was about a backwoods type family whose mother had run off years ago. The abandonment of his wife pushed the dad into physically (dressing and acting as the other:like psycho movie) being both the mother and the father. The brothers had to protect and hide this fact from everyone which made the family as a whole very reclusive. The change came from the older brother who was from the very start extremely against the Doc coming over to give them medical attention for an unrelated illness. The Doc figured out something was amis and eventually figured out their secret. When the secret was out the older brother was like a new person, hopeful and thankful.  

Strange, but watching Doc Martin along with my handy-dandy notes from Bob Mayer’s novel-writing seminar has re-kindled my analytical mind to focus on my own characters. I’ve actually stopped writing and editing The Vanishing Island for about month now and will wait a couple more months before I dig back into it. Being away from the everyday grind of writing and editing Wei Shu’s and Aine’s story has given me a chance to evaluate my characters and analyze their strengths and weakness. I want to make sure they are not falling into any of the classic character pitfalls and their character arcs are strong enough to lend themselves to continue on to the second part of their story.  

As a fellow writer what tips have you learned to creat solid and enganging characters?

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One Comment Add yours

  1. HKW says:

    I have been put off TV long ago.
    Doc Martin is the only show that brought me back and I enjoy watching it every week.
    Cannot get enough of it…. always waiting for the next 🙂
    Congratulations to Dominic Minghella, Martin Clunes and all the cast.
    Fabulous!

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