Friday, February 06, 2009

The Human Condition and Creating Character

As a writer, I create stories with both male and female perspective. Of course, fiction does tend to be larger than life. Part of creating realistic male POV in fiction, especially when you're female, is listening closely to the men in your life. Watching and trying to understand. Talking to them. Always observing.

As a female writer, it can be a bit easier to hone in on a female response. Writing from a male perspective can be rather trickier. One must dig deeper.

But the bottom line is emotion. All of us, male or female, respond with feelings in some way. Sometimes it might be simply an internal reaction, sometimes both internal and external. And sometimes life situations direct our outer responses and we hide behind an image of expectation.

I am forever fascinated by the human condition in all its myriad facets. Talking to people is important, but even in that sometimes we are presented with a facade, so in delving deeper into the psyche, I read a wide variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. It's always interesting to read other authors' works and get a glimpse into their perceptions. I do not pull from other fiction when I'm creating character and personality.

I write from a sense of person and not place. Although place does have an impact upon person. And sometimes I personify place or thing.

What are some of the nonfiction books I use to delve into psyche? Here's a list of recent reads:

"The Heroine's Journey" by Maureen Murdock
"Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche" by Robert A. Johnson
"She: Understanding Feminine Psychology" by Robert A. Johnson
"He: Understanding Masculine Psychology" by Robert A. Johnson
"The Interpretation of Fairy Tales" by Marie-Louise von Franz
"Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales" by Marie-Louise von Franz
"Psychology for Screenwriters: Building Conflict in Your Script" by William Indick, Ph.D.
"King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine" by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette
"Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence" by Sgt. Rory Miller

I do, of course, also have other lists of references for writing various aspects of erotic romance, that do not include "craft" books, per se--but that discussion is for another day.

So that's the short list in researching the human condition. These are among the books on my keeper shelf and I draw on them as I develop characters, in hopes that I create people and personality and not just stereotypes.

I highlight and mark passages that particularly resonate for me and instill thought.
"Creativity sometimes needs the protection of darkness, of being ignored." - The Interpretation of Fairy Tales.

Which is why I call my office "the dungeon." It is introspection and listening to the characters that drives my fingers across the keyboard. I write best when I am alone, in silence in order to hear what is revealed.

This phrase reminds me to fight through the block and put the first word on paper.
"There are people who have the task of writing on a theme but say it is dull and does not appeal to them, but after investing some libido in it they discover an inner flow of creativity. Many lazy people wait for inspiration until they are eighty and none comes; however, there are situations where one cannot wait, one has to make the first move and invest one's own vital strength in the task before it reveals its meaning." --Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales

Oh, yes, I like this one. This moment, when a character reveals some deep facet of him or herself is one of the most exciting moments in writing.

In my most recent release, "Lonely Hearts" this moment occurred for my character, Jim. Jim lives with hidden guilt and a skewed sense of deep responsibility which is ruining his life. There were several instances with Jim of revelations from his past.

Each veil lifted to reveal more and more of why Jim came to be the man he is. Moments and decisions in his life that profoundly affect how he relates to other people. How he trusts...or doesn't trust.

I have to admit there are times when I worry about following those "revelations." Many times they are dark and very extraordinary.

Such as in Caution: Wet Paint, when a particular facet of Clara's personality was revealed.

In a menage romance, such as Caution: Wet Paint for me and for my characters there must be a special symmetry that draws these three characters together. And it is through revealing the inner workings of the heart and soul that binds characters in a strong enough way to make the relationship individualized and believable.

My heart always beats faster when I translate what a character is finally comfortable enough to reveal to me. But in this instance, as usually is the case, this marks the difference between one-dimensional stereotype, and that of honesty in a character's development and personality.

With Caleb, in Lonely Hearts, I drew from the male Lover archetype. Caleb is a sensitive soul who hides behind flamboyance and creates perfect moments for everyone else. He loves life, but is missing that vital part--a man to share his life with. His personality is rooted in the Lover.
"The Lover is the archetype of play and of "display," of healthy embodiment, of being in the world of sensuous pleasure and in one's own body without shame --King, Warrior, Magician, Lover

Shame and guilt are exactly what stops Jim from achieving his heart's desire and living a full life.

Lonely Hearts is about weddings, about beginnings, about realization. It's about secrets and guilt and most of all it's about finding love.
"The man under the influence of the Lover wants to touch and be touched. He wants to touch everything physically and emotionally, and he wants to be touched by everything. He recognizes no boundaries. He wants to live out the connectedness he feels with the world inside, in the context of his powerful feelings, and outside, in the context of his relationships with other people. Ultimately, he wants to experience the world of sensual experience in its totality." --King, Warrior, Magician, Lover

This is Caleb. Can he bring Jim into his world? Can Jim learn to experience love in all its many facets? Is he the Lover Caleb has been searching for?

Exploring the human condition in fiction is an exciting adventure and an expression of hope and the endless and boundless possibilities for find that person who makes your life even more perfect.

Happy February--the month we celebrate love...


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