Monday, March 20, 2017


When you begin constructing a character, you begin by visualizing a physical entity best known as an armature, the framework supporting a sculpting or the base for a coil which becomes part of the electric motor.

You gravitate toward the electric motor comparison because of the way it reminds you that armatures participate in the production of energy as well as the support of a larger, outer assembly. Next step is to remind yourself of the character's primary goal, which becomes the energy source for the character in process.

Only then do you skim through the individuals you've sorted away in your memory, classified by the type and degree of emotional impact they've had on you. Now, you're ready to begin wrapping the wire of coil about the armature, each round of wrapping representing feelings such as attraction, revulsion, curiosity, fear, intrigue, hunger, excitement.

The armature process has helped you visualize and bring to some form of integrity your ensemble of characters for a story. The process works well with the production of all levels of characters because, to use your oft repeated analogy, even the person who delivers the ordered-on-line or phone ordered pizza wants--or should want--something. More often than not, a tip, but in one venture on which you collaborated with your great pal, Digby Wolf, a pizza delivery person could be after an audition as an actor, thus makes his or her only appearance to an audience where a producer or director is present.

The individual who drives the story with his or her goal or quest, the protagonist, does things in service of that goal or quest, sending ripples and shock waves through the various cultures of the other persons nearby. This individual is properly thought of as the protagonist--he or she who sets the story in motion.

Protagonists must be agreeable--in one way or another--monomaniacs, which gets directly to the point of saying a protagonist needs to be more devoted to the goal or outcome than to being a social individual. Such characters have quirks. Ishmael's quirk in fact drove him to recognize the need to sign on the Pequod as a means of getting away from urban and conventional stresses. Without his quirk, which we now recognize as bipolarity, there would be no story. 

Ahab's choice of the Pequod was an enhancement, even though it was accidental. Without the Pequod, the story would have been entirely different if indeed evident at all. Man takes to the sea to escape a return of the familiar affliction of depression. In signing on, Ishmael has signed on to eternal fame as protagonist of one of America's most riveting and influential narratives. Ishmael, in seeking to evade his personal nemesis, has literally and figuratively signed on to an even greater nemesis, Captain Ahab, the unthinkable for Ishmael and the reader, coming to pass.

The Protagonist needs an opposite number, thus an entirely different armature about which to begin winding character traits. The opposite number of the character whose goal or quest propels the story is the aptly named Antagonist, anti- against. You join the clamor shouting toward the notion that the days are long past where Protagonist must of conventional necessity stand apart as all good in the way, say, of Sir Galahad. The equation--and your purpose--continue: The Antagonist must not be evil for its own sake nor, as a matter of fact, evil at all.

Rather, the Antagonist must be a person whose goals, because of ethical, personal, and cultural considerations, run contrary to the Protagonist's agenda. Thus, two forces fighting one another the same way law students take opposing sides of legal issues in moot court argumentative competitions. Readers will supply the judgments; no two readers will of necessity supply the same judgments.

The Protagonist needs one or more Antagonists to make a story from a mere narrative. Enter you, with your belief that the more memorable Protagonists have their on stage Antagonists, Ishmael, for instance, having Captain Ahab, Hamlet having his Uncle, King Claudius. These memorable inventions, these wrappings about an armature, also have their inner Antagonists. Not to be outdone--indeed, they should not be--the Antagonists have their inner Protagonists.

Simply put for example, Ishmael has his outer Ahab and his inner Ahab; Ahab has his outer Ishmael AND his inner.

This inner-outer equation helps form an outcome closer in appearance to real persons. In the bargain, this inner-outer binary for all characters provides us a study guide for those relatively small matters that step forth around two or three of a morning, seeming quite large to the point of not allowing much in the way of sleep to progress.

1 comment:

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