Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author.   This week’s topic focuses on how character arcs can flow over the three act structure as commonly used in film, including mystery and crime film. Usually my columns talk about prose writing, but I also have background in scriptwriting, with some produced credits in animation. This got me to think about how character development can evolve different for mystery and crime films, which are broken down traditionally into three act structures. So, for the next three columns, I’m going to share my thoughts in character development in film as it pertains to mysteries and crime over a series of three columns, each corresponding to an act. This week, I’ll look at Act One. Act One traditionally sets up the world the story is in. In the case of a mystery or crime movie, that would not only include the incident that sets the story in motion, but also the locations as well as the characters. Since we can’t get inside the character’s heads easily in a film, ways have to be visually established through scenes for viewers to get to know what a character is all about. Not everything has to be blatant, though. Subtext in how dialogue is delivered, and nuances in character physical behavior, can tell a lot. Next time, we’ll look at Act Two. Shannon

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