By Kristen Roach, Associate Coordinator, Bluegrass Writers Studio
There's a famous quote from William Faulkner that always resonates with me: "Don't be 'a writer.' Be writing." It's a motivator, a call to action. More than that, it's a prompt to answer the age-old question, "What do you do?" with a verb instead of a noun. To conceive of ourselves in motion. It's so simple. How could all of us English buffs have missed it? Why do we answer the question of "do" with, "I am..."? More importantly, when will we stop doing it? Now is as good a time as any. "What do you do?" "I write."
I'd like to put the Faulkner principle to work on an overused and abstract word that I've grown to dread: creative. "Don't be 'creative.' Be creating."
Creating characters, in particular, is a cosmic job. It's a stirring of stardust or the flipping of a fin out of the primordial muck. Like much great art, it takes just the right amount of control and just the right amount of letting go. Some characters end up as nothing more than wisps, while others will get bogged down filling out bureaucratic forms outlining their motivations. How do we create someone real?
I think in creating believable humans, its useful to try out some of the world's concepts of how we were created. Because it's all fiction, we don't have to change our core beliefs, but we can play in foreign realms. We can step into Jung's philosophy of the 12 archetypes, or basic molds of personality: The Innocent, The Orphan, The Hero, The Caregiver, The Explorer, The Rebel, The Lover, The Creator, The Jester, The Sage, The Magician, and The Ruler. What mix of these ingredients makes up your character? [More on Jung's archetypes and their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and fears available here.] We can consider our character's chakra system and where their prana, or life force, is being blocked on its way from the most basic survivalist concerns to the highest enlightenment. Is he stuck in forming personal relationships, or unable to master self-expression? What other energies circle those centers? [A good chart of these is available here.] What is her zodiac sun sign and what element represents her forces? Who is their patron saint and how did he die? Who was she in a past life? And, as we all know is most important, what is his patronus?
These romps through others' creation myths can give us a fresh perspective on the elements of human character. Once we have put together enough to make them stand on their own, the people we create on the page will move beyond the stationary life of adjectives and nouns to seek, hide, chase, steal, covet, champion, long for, consume, comfort, drown, love, heal, betray, and ache, just like the rest of us.
Published on August 25, 2015