Thursday, February 23, 2012

On Characters

Frida is one of my all-time favorite movies.

In it, there is a scene where Diego Rivera

is painting a mural for the Rockefellers. In the mural, he paints Vladimir Lenin. Rockefeller is offended.

Rivera tells him that the character became Lenin of his own accord. Rivera is fired and the mural destroyed.

That scene, and that line in particular, really strike the writer in me. As a writer, I can completely relate to Diego Rivera (which is amazing since I think it's the only time he and I can relate! LOL). I know what it's like to have a character just morph into someone or something that you don't expect. Outside people may not understand. They think we have full control over these people we've created. Do we really? Quite personally, I think not.

All of the women in Loving Her just became who they are. I did not have them planned out. I had a basic understanding of who they were, but it wasn't until their stories unfolded that I really knew them. For example, I NEVER expected Stephania to have the confrontation or history that she did. She of all the women was my greatest surprise. Her story just kind of happened. Just like Lenin just kind of came on to Diego Rivera's mural.

In Imperfect, Paul was really supposed to only be an after-thought. I had no idea he would play the role in Carol's stort that he did. Again, it just kind of happened.

For me, writing is fluid. It should just happen - like life. So, when I write, I have basic ideas of plot, characters, etc. But I let my muse really do all the work. My hands are nothing more than a mere vessel to type out my muse's words. Part of that includes the characters. I just let their words and stories happen. They "speak" to me, and I put their words on the screen or paper. I like that, though. I am just surprised by my stories as I write them as you are when you read them!

To me, all art is fluid. Every paint stroke and every word is intentional, yet they may not be planned initially. We write what we write because we know we need to, though we may not yet know why. Another example is I had NO idea why I made Candace pregnant in Imperfect. But the purpose comes out in Impeccable. I knew that it had to happen when the idea came to me, I simply didn't understand the purpose or meaning. But doesn't that also happen to us in day-to-day living? That's reality, that's life.

That's also people. We get to know them as time (or the book) goes on. Sometimes these people are put in places or situations neither us nor they would ever imagine and their response is...unexpected. They just react with their gut response, just like we would. And that fluidity - that gut reponse - makes for great characters and great stories.

So yes, written characters - as well as painted people - can and do take on lives and personalities all their own. When that happens, whether they are a good character or a bad one, it is one of the gifts that the art of writing gives to both writers and readers.

Happy reading and writing! ;)

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