On the Nature of the Characters

Image     I understand character to be a way of localizing functions of drama to respond to assortments of characterizations – recognizable ideas a reader may be cognizant of. The main character in a story typically responds to a situation by experiencing a transformation, relating, in some way to the other characters as a whole. Characters may be foils, to each other, characterizing something like an argument, over hot dogs, maybe souls, or even schadenfreude. Characters have functions through imagery, their thoughts and actions, even their absence in a story can be intriguing. A missing character draws curiosity.

Characters in a story are more two-dimensional than main characters. Fair depths around, the main character slips and swoons into depths and soars into heights of banana nut cake anagnorisii satorial shenanigans and raw death and laughter. But eff.

The setting of a story, use of metaphorical structures, reoccurring or rhythmic appearances of certain things or ideas, the plot of a story, its tone, its theme, and its timing all add to the rich kitty of blarney that crackle in the fires of a rousing tale, and stuff like that.

But the main character of a story soaks up all the drama, changes, talks about it and reveals the interesting nuances of his or her perspective. The experience of reading a book and having a very engaging experience exploring a character’s character can be a profound one. Go ahead, say something. Say I’m lying. I’ll order you cheap yoga mats whose irregular shapes fit in no room of your house without rolling up on something. I’ll shave your mom. Because she paid me. Because I’m a mom-shaving, bemused and distracted gamble, a fountain of glorious hay. Hay hay, said the moon. Hay hay, please don’t shave my mom, I’m going to need the hair to weave a Christmas thumb-cat.

The strange sentences look like a bag of squirming crabs, the moon alive and sentient, the other character a raving loony,  purposeful. The mad ones are rarely without purpose. But as it is in life, many people are always transforming, while others are more or less experiencing the same milieus with the same old rose shower on the specs, the same blues, the same relative fears and comfort-spectars, isolados and lantern-swinging frigga fragga horn-swogglin’ merfa raffa cracker crocka. Sort of responding the dynamics of more animate characters.

Am I alive? Do I yet think and gesture and lay my bones upon my baggy  shadow? Of course I do. Aren’t we all characters in a larger story? The penultimate character, though, is the reader, swimming into the abyss of another’s imagination, sharing perspectives. Post-modern fiction invites the reader to be part of the interpretive event of the story, and the main character is destabilized, in some ways hostile to scrutiny. Like Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, the main character might be pulling your leg. The character might even be lying to himself in the hopes that its own fantasy might offer it mercy from some terrible sorrow. I like the idea of characters who are able to be meaningful by being silent, by being still, introverted within the story. Giving the reader some room to interpret the story may give the writer a chance to untie loose feelings, let go of the magic carpet of carefully woven causality and let metaphysical weirdness drive the story, letting the characters drift out of the story itself. When I write stories I don’t write every telling detail of a character; sometimes I offer glimpses, impressions. I bury a character in silence. There’s no such thing as a completely disambiguous person, so why should I have to tolerate the clarion blast of a cavalcade of poorly written, crude and perfunctory mechanical tin toy characters pounded flat and shiny by the  million drops of ferrofluid fists compsoing the marching ants of a summer picnic read? Bring the rain.

I smell rain on the breeze, now heavy, and the darkness pours forth from the horizon like steam from a lidded cauldron. We shouldn’t have come here. If they knew they’d kill us. Hide our tracks – but wait. There’s another set of tracks here…and they’re fresh.

Someone knows they’re here. And there, in that heel mark, is that a cigarette butt? Smoke to the filter. Someone is watching us. Everyone’s sneaky in Sneakyville. I always felt that a writer is constantly trying to eliminate characters from a book in order to keep it more lively. I’m not referring to Gravity’s Rainbow. Oh God, I get a migraine just thinking about Pirate’s banana shortage. 

Stories told and retold, stories hosting ancient characters, archetypes looming behind masks. Masks of different elements, cleverly hid. Character becomes a function of puzzles, an element of proportion or location to other objects, events, and so on. Characters become numbers, become chorus, become crowds.

When I recognize and ponder other people  in my daily life – family, colleagues and strangers –  it becomes easier to see depths of character the more I read. Reading teaches me to observe, and observing helps me to write, and everything makes me enjoy writing, even the bad shit. Especially the bad shit. I’m getting smoother, like a call of nature. Smoother, more regular, and voluptuous  banana ears, I wish upon you the Corn Mother’s blessing. And a bag of corn pone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.