*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie or any of the stage adaptations.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Fiddler On The Roof to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
Any writer worth their salt will tell you that one of the basic elements of a story is a character arc. The character starts off in one place and ends in another place. One of the under used common character arcs is that of a character who find the confidence to speak up for himself or herself and while doing so, makes their dream a reality.
In Fiddler On The Roof, the audience is introduced to Motel as Tzeitel’s childhood playmate and hopeful intended. The problem is that he is a poor tailor and Tzeitel’s parents have chosen a husband for their daughter who is higher on the social and economic scale. The problem is that every time he tries to ask Tevye for his blessing, he bumbles it up. Motel, to put it bluntly, in the beginning of the story needs to grow a backbone.
He does so, by finally asking Tevye to break tradition by asking for his blessing to marry Tzeitel. It’s not easy, especially considering the strict rules of the era and the fact that he is quite terrified of Tevye when we meet him initially. But he does so, in spite of the fear and receives the blessing he has hoped for.
To sum it up: Motel’s journey reminds me of one of my favorite Carrie Fisher quotes:
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
Motel’s journey feels very human. Sometimes the one thing we need to succeed when taking a risk is confidence, even if we don’t feel we have it. Motel takes the risk, knowing that Tevye could easily say no and force his daughter to marry the much older and wealthier butcher. But Tevye says yes and Motel’s risk pays off. In life as in fiction, taking a risk and having the confidence to do so is never easy. The outcome of the risk is not guaranteed. But we’ll never know until we try.