Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Go to YouTube.

Look up an interview by a well-known actor discussing a current or past character they’ve portrayed.

What do you notice?

Do you see how Jennifer Aniston refers to Rachel Green not as ‘me’? Do you see how Terrence Howard refers to Dee Jay as someone he doesn’t like as if it wasn’t his own portrayal?

It’s fascinating, the separation between actor and character. They aren’t as one, which is what makes them one. It’s the same reason that actors that are associated with only one character (think Jaleel White and Steve Urkel) try their damndest to get as far away from that character as possible.

That character isn’t them. It’s a portrayal and they want it to stay that way.

As a writer, you view characters in a similar way.

These are people you’ve conjured up in your mind to play with on paper until they reach a level where they start to do and say things on their own, without much direction from you.

They cry on their own. They laugh on their own. They get angry on their own, their emotions derived from the subtleties placed in their character by you at the beginning of their creation.

You develop a certain level of love or dislike for certain characters. You treat them like real people and you react to them as such.

Getting to write in the voice of a sarcastic or funny character should put you in a good mood. Writing in the voice of a tortured, abused soul should drain you of your love for life.

As a writer, you are the first to meet these people. The first to recognize their flaws, recognize their beauty, recognize what they want out of life and out of your story.

You create them. It’s God-like in the sense that you have control, and yet, you give them their own. You let them make mistakes. You let them go against the grain, turn left instead of right. And you follow them, to see where it takes them, you, the story.

Watching a character mature without much prodding from the writing, where it’s an inevitable transformation, is a beautiful thing to watch. It’s more profound in TV writing, and to a lesser extent, novels, due to the extended timeframe allotted. Within features, you only have two hours, so it has to be powerful. Either way, that transformation is engrossing.

And it starts with the writer.

Taking a journey with a character who needs control but can’t have it until you have it yourself can be a frustrating trip. It can tear some writers apart. It can make them doubt their talent.

Why isn’t this character working?

Why do they sound like me?

They aren’t them yet. Push away. Push far away. Look at them as if they are someone else because they are. They are them, and you are you. The writer. Their creator who must reach a point where you know you’ve done all that you can do for them.

Now, you must let go…


1 comment:

@ChristaMylife said...

Wow. This is deep. Im not a writer but as someone who reads alot I always wonder about the characters that people come up with. Sometimes the characters are so real I imagine the writer must be talking about themselves. I wondered how Precious was created in the book "Push". That book was so hard to read, I thought the author must have went through the things she wrote about.