So, I mentioned last week that I was going to talk about Angus MacGyver (yes, Angus is his first name) and his odd behavior regarding guns. I am actually going to be discussing this in the broader context of examining character consistency. You see, MacGyver had a problem with that. Most folks know that “MacGyver hates guns!” If you know a little MacGyver history, you know that it is allegedly because when he was a kid, he accidentally shot and killed his best friend. That makes guns bad. Of course, his grandmother and his father died in a car accident, but that doesn’t make cars bad in his mind. Go figure.
Either way, he allegedly hates guns with a passion, but this actually morphs several times over the course of the series. In the pilot, MacGyver uses two guns which he steals from the enemy. The first is rigged to spray bullets indiscriminately towards the ground (a rocky mountain top where ricochets could go everywhere) but the second gun he obtains, he uses to shoot at the bad guys. You heard me right, if you watch the pilot episode of MacGyver, he picks up an AK-47 and pops up from behind rocky cover where he proceeds to spray bullets at the “bad guys.”
At the beginning of the series, his allies (like Pete and Jack) frequently wield guns to round up the bad guys, but after four or five seasons (and the episode explaining how much and why he hates guns) MacGyver starts objecting even to this. Then comes that cheesy Silence of the Lambs knock-off. There is a criminally insane genius serial killer who has escaped and is being hunted by MacGyver. MacGyver tracks him down and as to hurry to defeat him to get the key to free the prisoner this bad guy has trapped in a deadly Rube Goldberg way. The guy taunts MacGyver and tries to goad him into picking up a gun and killing him (a la the Emperor and Luke in The Return of the Jedi). MacGyver actually gets an angry look on his face and stoops down to pick up the gun, but stops when he realizes the floor under the gun is a trap.
Ultimately, the character of MacGyver is very confused about something that is supposed to be a core element of his character. I understand this is due in part to the fact that he is a compilation of stories and ideas from a team of writers, producers, and directors, but I would expect some greater level of consistency within the character on a major issue such as this.
As I have been writing, I find myself asking “What would character X do?” In my current work in progress, several of my main characters’ personalities are based (loosely) on folks I know, so this is easy for them. Even with that advantage, though, I occasionally have difficulty balancing the need for character consistency with the desire to move the story forward (or in any other direction I want it to go).
Have you ever encountered issues maintaining internally consistent characters? If so, how do you resolve this?