Wednesday, July 25, 2012

16722--Grappling with the Dark Side

SevenDeadlySins.jpg  I suppose you could say that I am troubled by the "darker" emotions of mankind.  In its way, that's good.  They're supposed to bother us enough to move from them and toward the light.

Christian dogma demonizes the seven deadly sins.  In the comics, Billy Batson was warned of the seven deadly enemies of man prior to being transformed into Captain Marvel.  In film, we were warned in "Seven", among others, and by Jedi Master Yoda that fear paves the way to anger, hatred and suffering.  I was reading the description of a psychologist's functions recently and couldn't help but note that it sounded an awful lot like what writers do.  I guess that's why shrinks are always writing books.  Conversely, writers are supposed to be analyzing the hearts and minds of the people, studying them and finding new ways to explain their mysteries.  We're supposed to "go where the pain is" and poke it, potentially exorcising it.

Psychiatric professionals have patients.  Writers have characters.  Whichever profession you're in, you have to get your subjects to talk about their problems, but writers have to make up all the words.  I think writers have the tougher job.  Writers either have to find people in the world to pattern characters after or create them anew.  Either way, presenting the readers with the most complex and interesting characters calls for searching the deep, dark corners of the psyche.  That's going "where the pain is".  That's also where I feel like I have trouble with the dark side.

  Look at Iago.  Why did he plot Othello's ruin and not care who had to fall with him?  Because he hated the Moor.

Like Peter Parker, Anakin Skywalker feared he would suffer the loss of more loved ones.

Auric Goldfinger lusted for gold.

Batman battles to keep his wrathfulness in check as he wages his war of justice against crime.  The Punisher has no such internal conflict and gives full vent to his rage and pain, though the two suffered similar loss. 

Whether dealing with the Shadow, Sherlock Holmes, Humbert Humbert, Leopold Bloom, Madame Bovary, James Bond, Philip Marlowe, Mina Harker, Carrie, Edmond Dantes, Long John Silver, Fagin, Susan Calvin, Gatsby, Elektra or Hamlet, you're involved with characters possessed of complexity that makes them interesting for their tarnished and shadowy parts.

My trouble with writing for such characters is identifying with them.  I tend to be a happy guy.  According to those who know me, I have no vices.  Does this mean that as a Real Life character I'm dull as dry toast?  Nah, I still like to play and have interests that require moving about.  Plus, I've madness enough to keep people looking at me oddly when I talk.  My drinking friends in college said they were OK with me hanging with them not because they had a guaranteed driver but because I didn't give them shit about how much they drank.  In fiction and reality, I like good guys and dislike bad guys, though I can respect a well-crafted character.  I'm not going to like them, though, and I don't understand when people do.  You know who cheers for bad guys?  Other bad guys, that's who.

I never saw "Alien Nation" in the theater.  When the weekend came that my friend and I (he knows who he is) decided to watch it, he offered a warning.  "It's a good movie," he said, "but it's going to bother you.  It's got a lot of hate in it."  This isn't the kind of conversation I imagine most guys have about movies, but he sure called it.  He was right about it and me.  The film had a lot of overt and subtle racism and sometimes just other faces of hate.  I don't like hate.  I'm not afraid.  I'm not angry.  I don't hate anyone.  Well, Iago gets me worked up, but he's not real.  Oh, and Lex Luthor.  Grrrrrr...

Maybe I should've given more thought to all that spirituality and enlightenment stuff before I went exploring all those martial arts and doing all that ego detachment and meditation.  Maybe thinking about it wouldn't have made a difference.  I've always liked the good guys.  For me, that means writing holds extra work in my own head when I'm crafting a balance that keeps the bad guys from being "over the top" evil and good guys from being flawless.

Actually, that makes me think of an experiment to make a really bad bad guy and a really good good guy and then swap two or three of their traits.  That could be interesting.

Anyone else have any good ideas for adding dimensionality to personalities?

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if that is why some of the best fiction I have seen is from pairs like Hickman and Weiss.