Monday, November 24, 2008
Words on Writing - On What Makes a Character
I consider that all characters are inherently both good and evil, a product of their environment and having the freedom of will to choose how they respond to that environment and its long term effects on their character, while at the same time having no control over how that environment shapes who they have become. In other words, the characters are all a product of their environment for good or ill, whether they want it or not. But at the same time they can make the conscience decision on how they use that. They choose to be an axe murderer or not, regardless of their feelings about that axe and what drove them to using it to chop people to little bits. At the same time that character may be terrified by axes due to some incident in their past. They may feel terrible remorse while they hack away at their victim, feeling an urgent need to help and save their hapless victim, while at the same time being overwhelmingly driven by some unseen force within to mercilessly hack away. And yet, they did make that ultimate decision to consciously pick up that axe and stalk their prey. But why? Was it because some terrible thing was done to them in the past? A horrific event witnessed? Some fatal flaw of character that began as a small child mesmerized and fascinated by the wriggling squirming of a fly as you pull its wings off, and later moving on to birds, rodents, the neighbors cat. Or perhaps the character is blinded by their powerful urge to kill and has no control over themselves as they pick up that axe and chop away, yet at some point a glimmer of humanity and goodness will reveal itself. Similarly, a good person may reveal that their very goodness is driven by something darker. And even if not, their will be some character flaw, hidden or not, that will reveal itself. Along with that goodness will be a taint of evil, of badness. To me, this good and evil, conscience decision and unconscious byproduct of environment, are all melded together to create the whole of a character. Any character. Every character. From the main character to the ethereal, an animal, even a seemingly inanimate object. If it behaves as though it has a conscious will, the ability to think and act, choosing to move left or right, through the door or not, then all these things together make the character what or who the character is. The car behaves as though it has a will, and so it does. It is both good and evil and we may never understand why it chose to kill people. The gentle doe who saved the hunter may very well have an ulterior, darker, motive.