How do you do that? What kind of resistances are you concerned about?
Resistances come in many flavors and can be very hard to ascertain. It can require some deep introspection but doing so usually pays dividends so I try to stay as aware and alert to them as I can because if I don’t, ultimately the work can suffer. Sometimes, it’s just a question that I have been working too much at the expense of play or relaxation and the playful part of myself feels restless and maybe a little cheated. A simple remedy would be to take some time off and go to the beach or do something fun. A more serious kind of resistance could indicate that I’ve lost my way in the story or rather that I’ve strayed from the truth in some way. Maybe I’m forcing the characters to follow some plotting that I want to have happen and it’s not being respectful to the characters and may come across in the read as being false.
Explain how following a plot can be disrespectful to the characters of the story? Are you suggesting that in some way the characters that you have created have opinions and feelings so that they may feel “disrespected” in some way?
(smiles) Yes, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. One of the keys for me when writing characters is getting to that point when the characters in the story have, in some sense, taken on a life of their own, almost as if they have become real people in my head and on the page. When that starts to happen, I know that I am writing a story that has life in it; a passion or perhaps an integrity… which is very hard to define. When I’m writing a story and I don’t reach that point where the characters have become real, then I know that the story is not as good as it can be and a reader won’t be as engaged as when the characters have more… dimensionality, is perhaps a good description to use.
Do the characters then have “feelings”? I’m trying to understand how some imaginary characters that you have made up can feel “disrespected?”
I don’t know how common this is among writers, it’s not something that I have discussed a lot but one thing that I noticed from an early point in my writing is that in a lot or if not in most of my stories, it’s the characters – yes, that I have created – have told me what the story is and how things would naturally unfold given the character traits and combination of characters that are interacting in the story. Despite the fact that I’m following a plot outline of where I think the story should go, when I try to write my characters to follow that plot, they offer resistance as if they are telling me that what I wanted them to do was actually going against their character and not something that they would do in that situation. To continue to do so, would then feel to me like I was forcing the story. If I’m being sensitive to my characters, then I change the plot or rather have them tell me what the plot should be.
If that’s the case, then my next question almost answers itself. Do you outline a story before you begin?
Sometimes, but usually not, or rather, I may start with a very broad outline and know that that may or may not be the way the story is going to go. I stay very flexible.
Because your characters may tell you a different way to go?
Yes. I experimented with “characters determining the story” in one of my early plays where I decided to put two characters into a confined space (an elevator that stalls between floors) and based on some brief descriptive parameters (one is male, one female, both middle-aged), and through their interaction with each other have them tell me who they were and what was going to happen. I simply let them talk to each other and have it develop from there.
What happened? Did anything happen?
Yes, surprisingly. Being confined in a shared space, they had to talk to each other. They slowly developed very strong personalities that were so different to each other that through exploration and conversation, they ultimately clashed and went to some very weird places between and within themselves.
This was a fully developed play or a writing exercise?
It started as a writing exercise for myself but through rewrites and staged readings it developed into a producible play. There are plans to give it a full production next March in Los Angeles.
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Genre - Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG13
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