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?

Friday, July 13, 2012

16710--Writing is Not the Place to be Shackled by Realism

I've heard that some writers get bored by their projects.  I count myself as fortunate, having never been plagued by such ennui or writer's blocks.  If you're going to write, you should have love and enthusiasm for your work.  I don't think you can really give it your honest best otherwise.

As I sat at my keyboard (big shock), pounding out my work-in-progress (WIP), the teenager I continue to feed came to me with his latest idea.  Unlike most, this one was about me rather than himself.

"You need to do audiobooks," he said.  "Y'know, for your books."

"Well, it's a thought," I told him, "but I'm not really--"

"Then you could get people to listen to you tell them about your books," he said, "instead of having to read them."

I decided not to take that in a negative way and explained that I liked the idea of actors doing the reading rather than doing it myself.

"Oh!" he said with a wild-eyed flash of inspiration.  "Could we get Samuel Jackson to do it?"

"While that might be interesting," I said, "I'm not sure he does that sort of thing and I'm pretty sure I couldn't afford him."

"Oh, well, how about Batman?" he asked.

"Which one?"

"ummmm...Not Adam West.  Batman Beyond," he said.

"You want Kevin Conroy?" I asked.  "He played Batman in that and Batman: The Animated Series."

"No, the other one.  Who played Terry?" he asked.

"Will Friedle.  He was Ron Stoppable.  He's Lion-O, now."

"Oh, I know, Clint Eastwood," he said, convincing me he had no grasp of this whole thing at all.

"Clint Eastwood."

"Yeah," he smiled and nodded.  "How about him?"

"Dude, he's one of the biggest box office draws on the planet," I explained as clearly as possible.  "If I can't afford Samuel Jackson, there's no way I'm going to be able to pay Clint Eastwood.  On top of that, Clint only uses about twenty-five words a year and I don't think he's going to waste them working for me."

"Really?  Only twenty-five words?" he asked.

Yeah, that was his take-away.  "Don't worry about it," I said.  "When the time is right, I'll look into a small cast of unknowns."

He slunk off a little deflated, but raced back about twenty seconds later.

"Oh, I know!  James Earl Jones!"

"Which part of 'can't possibly afford to pay' is not getting through?" I had to ask.

"If I had a million dollars," he said, "I'd give it to him for you."

"And while I do appreciate that," I told him, "I don't think you want to give it all up on a reading gig."

"But you'd make it all back on the audiobooks, see?""

Who could ask for more confidence in a business manager?

"I think, perhaps, you're overestimating Mr. Jones' fee as well as the return on investment we could expect on the project, but thanks."

Now, this fine fellow would be worth the million.

All that said, a lot to learn, but points for enthusiasm and positive thinking.

Keep writing.