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The World as an Extension of a Character

[I discovered this theory for myself, though undoubtedly others have discovered it before me.]

Ben is bad with technology. This is an explicitly stated character attribute. Jake is good with technology. This is also an explicitly stated character attribute. Jake uses a computerized machine. It functions flawlessly, perhaps even giving Jake a reward. Ben uses the machine in exactly the same way. It malfunctions, perhaps even giving Ben a broadly comedic pratfall. The machine is not a character with a will of its own. Rather, it is an extension of the character who uses it. It is an extension of Jake and his skill, or Ben and his lack thereof.

The machine can be replaced with people. Ben has bad luck with women. Jake has good luck with them. Ben and Jake go to a bar. Jake introduces himself to two lovely women. They immediately fall for him and hang on his arms. Ben introduces himself to one woman in exactly the same way. She splashes her drink in his face. The women are not actually characters themselves. They are extensions of Ben and Jake’s characters. They have no free will to act on their own.

Likewise, the machine can be replaced with the world. Jake drives to work in his shiny Ferrari. Ben climbs into his battered Oldsmobile, and it conks out. He then hails a cab, which drives through a puddle and gets him all wet. Indeed, such broad examples can be found in Looney Tunes cartoons. Roadrunner runs right into a painting on a cliff side and keeps on going, as if the painting were real space. Wile E. Coyote runs into the painting, and his face slams flat against the cliff side. Buggs Bunny finds a four-leaf clover. Daffy Duck gets an anvil dropped onto his head. The world is an extension of the defined character. A world behaving according to these rules may be effective for a story, like the best Looney Tunes cartoons, or it may be limiting and annoying, like the worst Tiny Toons cartoons.

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