Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Abstraction of Interactions

Interactions, acting, relationships...

As a writer crafts their piece from consciousness, the narrative only comes to life once the characters have been properly sculpted. Each character is etched with the finest detail, complex psychology and a believable persona. The work begins to come to life but detailed behavior alone cannot carry a narrative without character dynamics.

Every individual has their own persona, their own psychology, that drives them and their actions. While it is possible for a single character to carry an entire narrative, it is their actions and interactions with elements within the piece ultimately reveal how believable a character is. Whether internalizing against external forces or even internal conflict, it is the ability of the individual to react to a stimulus that allows an audience to perceive a character.

Utilizing external stimulus such as conflicts, events, weather, even other characters as a catalyst is a premiere means of exploring an individual's psychology. 

Characters are the actors of a narrative, the living creations that a writer takes a possessive responsibility for in the piece. The quality of the acting is determined by the psychology of the actors. Are their motivations believable? Do they react to situations in manner? Are the convincing? Do they have a strong stage presence? As any director, a writer can know exactly who their stars will be for a piece and if their chosen talent doesn't match the vision that they had then the piece will never have the satisfaction or completion. It is that desire for the perfect vision that a writer's actors have to essentially live up to for the piece. 

No amount of perfect premise or precision acting can save a piece from a director that demands their character act out of character. As in many instances a director will have a character develop a relationship, a love interest, for the sake of piece regardless whether it fits the piece or not. In many recent pieces, a strong character will develop a relationship with a an 'anti-character' (a character that is the complete opposite of the main character but not an antagonist) for no other purpose than to add a romance element to the piece. Even worse, some directors devalue their characters entirely by using casual sexual encounters to fill the 'romance' quota for their piece. While relationships can take many forms and all can help develop a piece, the director needs to take special care that they are building and not exploiting characters.

When a character has been well sculpted, detailed, and has been defined through their relationships with other characters, they become individuals. Individuals you can feel for, relate to and understand. Far too often writers craft strong characters, some even believable but the greats introduce us to individuals. Through those individuals it is no longer a story, it becomes a rolling journal. Individuals make it possible for an audience to fall for them, support them and when their relationships fail they feel their own hearts broken.

Are you creating characters? Or are you introducing us to new individuals?


Michele Shaw said...

Superb! That's right! I love how you say they should be individuals. Cliche, cardboard cut-out characters are bad enough, but it almost seems worse when a character has so much potential and the author failed to mine the gems out of them. If we still don't really "know" them by the end, it falls flat.

PW.Creighton said...

Michele, thanks. I think that's the key. If we know them as people with their own lives, past relationships, someone you can pass on the street, you are more likely to form an attachment to them. When something heart-wrenchingly painful for them, your heart bleeds for them. You want those that meet them to feel the same.

Cheryl Reif said...

I love thinking of myself as a director--that's what it feels like sometimes. I try to create characters that are fully enough developed that you can turn them loose on the stage and see what happens.

Julie Musil said...

Well said. This post reminds me of some of the great books I've read, whre I STILL think about those characters. They became real to me. I hope I'm doing the same thing with my writing, but I know I have a long way to go. What a great post.

PW.Creighton said...

Cheryl, we are the directors and the casting and the producers. We've got to churn out an amazing show. It's on us to make sure we've made the right choices. If we've done it right, we can just let them loose on stage and see what happens.

Julie, thanks for stopping by. That's the major distinction I like to make. There are characters and then there are individuals. A fully realized psychology, persona, will give us individuals to introduce. Not flat characters.

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