Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Edge is the line where two surfaces intersect, the cutting surface of a blade, a boundary. In a character, it is a penetrating, incisive quality. Characters, particularly lead characters, need an edge. Dorothy Gayle's edge was her desire to get back to Kansas. Samuel Spade, formerly of Archer and Spade, Investigations, had an edge as sharp as cynicism. Sir Galahad in the Arthurian legend had an edge of virtuous innocence. Lyra Belacqua has a number of edges, not the least of which is impudence

Whether the story is chicklit, YA, fantasy, or mystery, whether it is literature or genre, the story is driven by persons with edge, and so there should be about them a quality of edginess bordering on grittiness. In order to seem to be alive, characters of front rank, which is to say the protagonist or antagonist level, should be bigger than life, defined by a few select traits or qualities that add to the edge and which may be misinterpreted by other characters.

Primary characters, those who stand at the protagonist rank, are individuals who drive story by riding the vehicle of their desire or need. A protagonist is a character acting on a want of something or someone, then the causality of achieving the goal or working for it, exacerbated by the edge used in the acquisition and response.

Antagonists, who should appear at least as likable as the protagonists, possibly even more, should be edgy in their opposition to the goals and agendas of the protagonist. One of the many reasons why The Wire is such an important dramatic venture is because of the complexity of each character, protagonist and antagonist, the blur between them in terms of moral judgements we viewers make.

Remember when you used to fill paper sacks with huffs of breath to the point where they were fully extended. Then you twist the top, sealing in the breath. Then you sneak up behind someone, smash the bag between your hands to create a pop. Thus a comparison between the bag filled with your air, being a segment of story that has a loud sound that is a sudden surprise. This is what story should do. Each character is filled with breath that creates surprising pops.


Anonymous said...

Oh, like my breath in a paper bag. Exactly like that.

Anonymous said...

I dig your reference to The Wire in this post. I honestly believe that it was the best written show on television for no other reason that the lines between protagonist and antagonist were severely blurred. I can't even count the number of times my moral code was tested, especially in the last season with regard to child drug runners.

I am currently reading After Dark by Haruki Murakami. Although it is still early on, and despite the fact that the story is already beginning to creep me out, I'm fascinated by the fact that I have begun to root for people in this seedy after hours world of Tokyo. I can't wait for the pop.

Thanks for stopping by my site as well. I'm pinning that Beckett quote up in my wall.