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Article - 'Foil -- More than metal!' by Terin

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Most people have problems bringing characters to life. So, let's take a trip back to English class and study the foil...

Body

Most people have trouble making a certain character stick out or seem more lifelike. There's an easy solution to this, that most of us should have learned back in English. Obviously, I'm talking about the foil. For those of you who don't know what a foil is, I'll explain...

A foil is a character or thing that brings out a part of the character that would not normally be seen. For example, a character whose parents were burned alive by orcs might get in a situation where an orc had saved his life. Let's also assume that orcs in this world are considered to be essentially evil. The character has a hard time getting used to this orc, even though it saved him. The character may go so far as to forgive him, (and open a flashback) or completely flip out and kill the blasted thing. Obviously, it's up to you.

Now, we could also consider the foil to be something inanimate, non-living, or even deity-like. Hercules (if anyone ever watched the show) had a constant foil -- Hera. After Hera had burned his family alive, he went after her temples, destroying them. This is quite contrary to the peaceful, kind Hercules we had seen before, who went out of his way to help people. He was now a man with a lot of rage and vengance. Another good example is the Hulk. When he gets angry, perhaps even over spilled milk, a seemingly ordinary man turns into a giant, green monster bent on destruction. Sound kinda like Bart? Maybe.

An inanimate object or symbol is another good thing to go off of. A character may have carved a heart with the name of his lover and his in a tree. However, his lover died, and when he sees hearts in the trees, he turns into an emotional wreck. He either goes after those people and kills them (he's a psychopath) or he goes and tries to help them, if they're in trouble. (obviously a hero)

So when you look at it, a character is actually pretty easy to make look good through the use of foils. Most of them tend to be other characters, but you can get away with using other things. The sky is the limit, so they say...