Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Character, Character, Character

In Character

For starters, consider: Providing a character with too many traits or attributes might undercut rather than enhance that individual’s dramatic and thematic presence. Accordingly, I’ve chosen three traits found to some degree in every person. If orchestrated with thoughtfulness, these traits can be instrumental in conveying a plausible sense of that character to the reader, an evocation for the reader of the depth and complexity of a character. These three traits are:

Conscience is the moral compass by which the individual measures his behavior and the behavior of others. Conscience is the voice that sits in judgment on every human transaction, saying, “Go,” or “Do it,” or “No go,” or “Don’t do it.” Some individuals have in effect turned the volume down on this inner voice.

Ego is the manifestation and agenda of the self; how the individual sees itself, feels about itself. It may also reflect what the individual fears, specifically what may be missing or seen as missing. Ego is a sense of how the individual believes he ought to be treated by other individuals and by the Cosmos. “I deserved that,” is just effective when an individual is responding to a reward or triumph as to a punishment or failure.

Needs are the moral, physical, spiritual, and creative elements the individual feels he must have in order to maintain survival. An individual’s set of needs does not have to be rational; and frequently isn’t. The person may wish to be loved by everyone or one person in particular, may need a constant diet of flattery, may need certain possessions or relationships, without which the individual feels threatened, inadequate, impotent in one or more ways.
E Represents a normal, balanced, uninteresting individual
N in whom all three of these key aspects are of equal presence, and in healthy dialog with one another.
E Represents an individual driven by conscience at the expense
N of self-awareness (ego)
E Represents an individual in whom conscience (the moral
N restraint) has taken a hit at the expense of self-import-
ance and needs.
Not to forget:
E Represents a person whose needs are great enough to over-
N ride conscience and ego in order to pave the way for acquisitive behavior.
There are numerous variations on this C/E/N ratio. Visualize any person in public life, contemporary or based on your historical knowledge, apply this C/E/N ratio to them in proportions you think appropriate. Does this help you get a better handle on a public figure? Can you see how this will help you with characters you have created out of whole cloth or constructed as a patchwork quilt from more than one person you’ve observed in Reality?

No comments: