Monday, 28 March 2011
Who are you?
Then there’s character, the peculiar mix of human traits that makes up each and every one of us. Not just our physical appearance –‘thick black hair fell across his brow’- but if he bites his nails, talks in a pompous style, flaunts a lace-edged handkerchief when addressed suddenly. Does he really like women, or despise them? Was his childhood kind or hideous? Does he work? If so, what at? Is he RC or CoE? Does he care about either? How does he spend his money, where does he live, does he eat sparingly or greedily? Even when we’ve got all this down pat, we slowly realise it’s no more than a mask for the creature inside. How long does it take to be real friends with someone? Days? Weeks? Years? Look at a best friend. Are they honest, or will they cheat on paying bus fares? Do they argue carefully, or noisily, flaring up when anyone disagrees with their point of view? Are they arrogant about those with little talent? Can you answer such questions? Do you really know this person? True character, we’re always told, is revealed through choices made under pressure. McKee thinks there’s a key to character, and calls it desire. What does the character want? Then comes motivation. Is the protagonist prepared to do something about it, or let it go begging? Lots can be learned from other characters, who see a different side of your protagonist. Gossip may be just that, or it may enlighten in a way that surprises. Often we want something desperately without knowing why we want it, or even if we should have it. But it is a key to the character, for as long as the desire for that particular object lasts.