Friday, April 11, 2008

Amicus Brief

One of the things we look for in friends is the easy and flexible tie of acceptance; we look for someone we can be accepting of, someone who will return the favor by being accepting of us, with all our follies and foibles. Work associates and acquaintances are another matter, a population living for all practical purposes on another plateau. We have to get along with these, maintain a level of some civility. When persons of this level reach the point in our esteem where we become vulnerable in the sense of possibly being disappointed in them, then the lines have been muddied and we are at risk of becoming accepting of them.

I am openly wondering here if we treat our characters with the same degrees of awareness, being accepting or not, being disappointed in them or for the, running the risk of caring about them to the point where they take on a life of their own, off the page or screen, appearing , as friends often do, in our dreams, plans, speculations, remembrances.

How much in reality do we know about our characters? Do we know their dreams to the extent where we know what they hope to accomplish in life? Do we know for what and for whom they lust?

These questions weigh heavily on me much of the time and bear down like the contents of an improperly stacked shelf, dousing me with results of a sudden shift in center of gravity, more so when I stumble across formulaic rubrics for creating memorable characters or when I read something where the goals, dreams, and secrets of the characters are as remote as a distant star. This last is a splendid metaphor for character because in many cases the light we see from distant stars began its travels to our sensors even before we were born. Some characters were set in motion in centuries past, The Wife of Bath coming to mind as a prime example. Six hundred years is a long time for a character to travel, but she, The Wife, holds up remarkably well and serves as a model for emulation, not necessarily of type but of process.

In the process of going through early episodes of The Wire, I am finding another form of reminder. Most of these characters have the added advantage of having their agendas and words set forth in what I will call street poetry. They also have the dual advantage of visual representation in general and depiction from a fine ensemble cast of actors in specific.

This may explain some of my craziness and otherness. I wander about in a manner reminiscent of Stephen Deadalus in the Ulysses Night Town segment, haunted by visitors from the ghost world. Like Stephen, I am visited by images of Annie, my mother, with some mother-son issues, to be sure, but nothing so guilt-ridden and driven as Stephen's to his mother, whose death-bed wishes were that he pray for her, and his agenda was to refuse. I am visited by a growing panoply of ghosts, from the plateau of friendship and from the land of the acquaintance, often with no clue why they picked a particular moment to appear. I am visited by and may appear to be conversing with characters or with acquaintances with whom I am in the process of developing that vulnerability I mentioned earlier, the vulnerability of becoming accepting of them and their foibles.

Although I on occasion appear to myself as a misanthrope, I am not seriously enlisted in that particular lodge; it is too easy to find individuals and characters not only to accept but to outright admire and envy their abilities at coping with various of the challenges presented by life.

If they--these imaginary individuals of my own process--will trust me with their stories, why shouldn't I extend them the favor of trusting them with mine?

The bond that connects us or, in fact, is waiting for the connection to become more manifest is the bond of confidence. I need to gain their confidence so that they will tell me not the surface story but the real story, the deep story, the one printed on the archival medium of their soul.


R.L. Bourges said...

Characters are our imaginary friends (or favorite ennemies), ones over which we exert a modicum of control. When life is kind, we also have friends who are real characters. The only problem with the living characters is that, just like children or dogs, they refuse to sit still while we grab their likeness. A challenge. A blessing.

x said...

I love your analogy of friends and characters. In general, you write many posts about making characters come alive as people in a way no one else writes about and which I find inspiring.