Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A decided lack of character

Agenda is the fanny pack borne by all characters who set forth on the stage, which of course is the page.  Agenda defines how these individuals will behave while in quest of their story-related goal, how they are seen by other characters, and of course by the reader.

Agenda is the armature about which the salient parts of character are wrapped.  What does that person want?  You are the casting director.  How did that individual get beyond your critical eye?  What part did you see that character portraying.  Even the pizza delivery person you are so fond of bringing into these vagrant essays wants something.  How many individuals can you imagine who would be content with a career delivering pizzas, wanting no added career bump?  At the very least this delivery person would want to run his/her own parlor, sending myriad delivery persons out into the world.

You have heard many law enforcement persons in their moments of shop talk, addressing the matter of the most dangerous job--responding to domestic violence calls.  There is an apparent critical moment in the procedure where both the aggressor and the victim turn on the responding officer.  Similarly there is damage to a writer for getting between contending characters.  Although you have compassion for them, even empathy, you must restrain yourself, let them solve their problems, lead the way to the explosions that are detonated within the sensitivities of these individuals.

You could well regard each of your characters as a version of the Golem of Prague, constructed from clay from a river bank, the forehead inscribed with an empowering word that brings the being to life for a single purpose.  You already have one or two characters in mind for a series, but the metaphor is the same; these are beings made to seem real, ambitions, fears, hidden agendas wrapped about that singular armature of what they want in this particular story.

They will and should become markedly real to you.  If they do not come to represent life to you, how can you expect them to resonate for anyone else?  They are clay from the river bank of your experience, just at the point where it merges with your imagination.  Some versions of the Golem story have the empowering word written on a sheet of parchment, rolled into a cylinder, then slid into the creature's ear.  When the creature has done its service, the power word is wiped from its brow or the mini-scroll is removed from the ear.  For your stories to be as successful as you wish, these characters of yours remain in the landscape you have cast them in, where they will, you hope, be encountered by myriad persons you may never know, possibly even persons beyond your own life span.  Getting in their way, telling them what to do will accordingly brand you as the one thing you do not wish to wear as a brand:  a control freak.  Enough that, as with your sister and brother writers, you are obsessive and compulsive.  That should be quite enough.

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