Post #3 for NaBloPoMo!
I’m currently rehearsing for a community theater production of The Producers, where I was cast as Ulla (which seemed a little strange at first, considering I’m a 5’1″ mulatto…). The process of learning this character has been a rather surreal experience because she is nothing like me. Ulla exudes confidence, while I can barely find enough confidence to push myself out the door. And yet, I’m finding it surprisingly easy to summon this character and portray her on stage.
I’ve realized that a similar truth exists in creating characters for fiction. While we’re told to write what we know, sometimes our best work dramatizes places and people that we can only dream of seeing. But then again, maybe it’s the idea that we dream to be so much more than we are that makes this true. My Ulla comes so easily to me not just because I’m nothing like her, but because I’ve been this person in my dreams, and a part of me has longed for years to be her. A small part, mind you.
Think about a character you were particularly proud of creating, someone whose words and actions essentially wrote themselves. You probably know this person better than you know yourself, but is that because it’s you? Probably not. But at the same time, it’s a piece of you that you can’t deny now that it’s out in the open. I felt that way with Ellie, the character I roleplayed in my recent Dread game. She was leagues away from me in terms of personality traits, but everything about her felt right, and creating her felt effortless.
In the end, the best characters are a mix of all the best qualities a writer surrounds themselves with.