Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Casting Call: Interesting Characters Only. Bozos Need Not Apply.

How important is it for you to like your characters?  Put this question in context with another:  Hoe important is it for you to see the potential in the character without necessarily liking that individual?  Now we begin to narrow in on a truth not readily recognized.  The story is going to reflect the point of view and personality of one or more of your characters; it will only reflect your point of focus (note the difference) and personality.  The same script with the same case will seem continents apart thanks to the attending personality of the director.

Like it or not, you are the director; you hold auditions for the characters, picking them for some reasons that may ultimately be mysterious to you.  Surely you see some potential, whether it is for the potential explosiveness resident in that character or because he or she reminds you appropriately of a person in real life--or another story--with whom you have unfinished business.

Freud and some of his acolytes were fond of saying that when two individuals hunker down to engage in the act of love making, the scene becomes crowded with the parents of both parties.  Neo-Freudians suggest the potential for even more individual presences.  In similar fashion, when you begin to see the need for a particular character for whatever reason, you begin with a shall, an outline of convenience to which you add quirks, issues, hair-trigger responses.  Perhaps you even go so far as to set forth a character who is in some way an ideal for you.  As that character develops, you see more of his or her details and complications.  The business of pushing plot points along becomes almost secondary, even subsumed by the way the characters behave, particularly under stress.

A competent actor, waiting in the wings for her cue to enter, knows where she's just been, what she's just done, what her motives are for having done so.  Perhaps she has just come from her lover.  Perhaps she has just come from someone whose lover she wishes to be.  Perhaps she has hopes that the individual she will be meeting when she steps into the scene will be enthusiastic about the prospect of becoming her lover.  Perhaps it has nothing to do with sex.  Oh, right.  And perhaps it has nothing to do with politics.  Or status.

Perhaps you are the sort of director who tells his actors conflicting stories, hopeful of inciting a chemistry of tension and edginess between them.  But based on a few years experience, you rather think that is not your style.  You like them too much, even, and particularly the problematic ones, the ones you brought in for some of the reasons listed above, to bedevil the protagonist or to experience a quasi-closure with a hang-nail event from your past.  Percentage wise, you try to respect if not like the other persons about ten percent more than you do the front-liners.


Storm Dweller said...

All of my characters are interesting enough that they can justify commiting some sort of crime of passion.

marta said...

For the first time in my years of teaching ESL writing, a student has given me a novel to critique. The student is 20 and as I read his story, I'm seeing how hard it is to understand character. Not that I thought it easy, but I can see how far I've come--and how far I still have to go.