The Icon of the Golem has always fascinated me: I’ve imagined how a Golem could come to life in real-time. But, alas, I am left with the nearly as wonderful Icon of my fictional characters.
I recently observed a Speech Therapist work with my nephew: He’s bright and loving and self-assured, but at two-years, has not developed an appreciation for the initiated value of speech. This Therapist worked her magic – she simply allowed him to direct the play. He responded by working at forming the sounds she offered, and Voila! He’s off and running in the world of spoken language!
After, she offered a book on how Family can assist a child with learning and development. This little book might just change my creative life forever, for it gives the formula for crafting characters like no other. Based on a learning and development approach that allows the child to engage the adult rather than the other way around, it hit me like a train that characters in fictional works deserve the same treatment.
This approach should have hit me sooner, but it took a village of artists to deliver the message to me. I heard something powerful on the issue of portraying Character when I recently interviewed the Actress, Amanda Reed. She explained that in MOTHER’S RED DRESS, she portrayed her character by “surrendering over to her, and giving her the respect of allowing her story to be told.”
A Writer who takes this approach, succeeds. Enter the writer who’s looking to enchant a Character Form into a well-developed living and breathing Structure with Function. This idea of Form, Structure, and Function is one that presents itself as a model in human anatomy and physiology, as each together describe the Form, the Structure, and the Function of the human body.
Bones, fibrous stuff and hoses are great, but how does it all work in real-time? When we writers look to craft, we sometimes go right to Function and skip the rest – what does this character do? Or, we focus on Form – what does the character look like inside and out – like the exoskeleton of an insect. Or, we portray how this character acts in certain situations or think in certain moments – this is the Structure of the character. With any one approach, we look to give our Audience what they crave – a living and breathing character that compels, repels, engages, and intrigues. But if we do not include it all, do we succeed? The litmus test here is whether our Audience could answer a series of trivia questions about our characters…
Using the child learning and development approach where the adult allows the child to lead the activity, how does a writer’s approach to character development look?
First, walk with my mind on the topic a bit. I just read a poignant and essential Blog on this very thing by Twitter @princess_scribe – on her Blog Site http://www.princessscribe.com She relays what it’s like to create her first Web Series THEY LIVE AMONG US, and how she’s decided to give the reins of character development and portrayal to the Actors, encouraging them to decide even the hobbies of their characters. Set design will then be based on her actors’ insights. Her Series has been immediately elevated by this approach. THEY LIVE AMONG US Webpage:
This approach is key in my mind when a Writer crafts a character who will be unforgettable – one who will take up residence in the Readers’ / Viewers’ mind long after the words are seen, heard, or images have been received. Can we as Writers be brave enough to let our characters determine our stories?
Last night on Twitter, @jeffdaviswrites said something so profound on this topic, I nearly flew out of my chair. He said that he was working on a sequel to his novel PREYING ANGELS, and that the “…characters were leading him through now.” Exactly. Like the child who engages the adult, Jeff allows his characters to show him who they are and how their reality unfolds. Jeff is experiencing the story in real-time with his characters. This kind of writing can only mean one thing: The Reader will be riveted by the story, and that real-time quality of believability, no matter the subject matter, will prevail!
My nephew had me at “Gah” – his favorite term for all things profound, just like Amanda Reed, @princess_scribe and @jeffdaviswrites had me with their insights. Unveiling characters as they discover themselves and their world brings our Golems to Life that all Audiences will, with or without thought, invite into their minds. These characters will then have a chance to take up residence like the great Icons of Worthy Fiction and Film.
I welcome your Comments. And, as always, I’ll leave the Light on for Ya.