Cast of Characters



I am NOT one of those people who wonder why they have a TV because they never watch it. No…not me. I enjoy my entertainment in many forms…and I immerse myself in a fair amount of television. I have current favorites of course, and not surprisingly that list mirrors my interest in reading/writing (mystery, horror, and crime drama to name a few). My DVR plays a steady stream of Sherlock, Elementary, NCIS, Major Crimes (formerly The Closer), The Strain, Supernatural, Penny Dreadful, Homeland, Agents of Shield, and so on and so on.

On a separate, but tangently related note, I’ve been noticing that when I attend writer’s conferences many of the speakers tend to reference movies and television when they’re trying to illustrate a point. Just a couple of weeks ago I listened to popular author give a talk about developing plot twists, but all of the examples he cited were from popular cinema.
My topic for today involves something you can do in literature that, at times, is hard to pull off in visual media.

The stories in the movies and television we watch are told to us via actors. Actors that, if they’re talented enough and/or lucky enough, have inhabited many roles. There’s even such a category of actor called “Character Actor”, who according to Wikipedia, is a supporting actor skilled at playing distinctly unusual, interesting, or eccentric characters, such that they are almost unrecognizable from part to part, and yet play many, many roles convincingly and memorably. These are the actors who will always play the "tough and determined guy", or the "upstanding lady matriarch", a "sophisticated, sometimes ambiguously moral man", or a "calm, composed character with an edge and potential to explode". Ed Lauter, for example, usually portrayed a menacing figure because of his long, angular face which was easily recognized in public, although audiences rarely knew his name.


The inherent problem with character actors is that they accidentally telegraph future plot points. For example, an actor who commonly portrays someone with questionable ethics, will tip off where the story is heading just by the fact that actor was cast in the part (if you watch visual media fairly regularly). It’s a trapping of utilizing character actors to depict a certain personality in order to shortcut actual character development. It’s as if the screen writer sketches an outline of how a character will behave (their motivation) and the character actor helps fill the rest.

With our writing however, we have no such luxury…or ploy. In order for the reader to understand our characters, we must fill in all the blanks. There are no short cuts. There just aren’t. Sure, we’ll let them draw upon their own experiences…their prejudices…their rose color glasses to add context, but in the end it falls to us to breathe life into each and every player. The personality, disposition, mannerisms, and temperament of all of our characters come from inside us and cannot be outsourced to a character actor. The upside…there are no reader pre-conceptions other than their own proclivities.

It’s an awesome responsibility…but isn’t that what we signed up for? 
 

DL’s Rules to Live By




Now that WRiTE CLUB and the DFW Conference are in my rear view mirror for the year, I have an abundance of time to worry about how my book is doing while its on submission. This is when the self-confidence begins to waiver and whispers of doubt creep in, which of course leads to self-reflection and questions that are hard to face. At times like this I tend to do a soft-reboot and remind myself who I am...and more importantly...who I want to be.   

Below is a list of 30 rules I've accumulated over the years that help define who I want to be. They're  from various sources (movies, songs, literature, bathroom walls, etc.), and in various ways help me navigate through life.  Some are corny...some not...but I can relate to them all. I feel that everyone would benefit from composing there own list and reviewing it often. Today is one of those review days for me, and I'm letting you peek over my shoulder.

DL’s Rules to Live By

1.      Most doors in the world are closed, so if you find one you want to get into: you damn well better have an interesting knock.
2.      Even though I’m not very religious, this still applies.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
3.      Work before play, but a long break every now and then never hurts anyone.
4.      As far as criticism goes, always consider the source.  The same is true for praise.
5.      Sometimes it’s easier to just agree to disagree.
6.      There's nothing wrong with being afraid of the dark...especially if you're a writer. It just means you have an active imagination.
7.      Respect your elders, until they give you a reason to do otherwise.
8.      If you’re paid a day’s wages, then work an honest day’s work.  Sick time is for when you’re SICK.
9.      Guys don’t hit girls.  Period.
10.  Too good to be true, usually is.
11.  People who believe in Santa Clause receive more presents than people who don’t.
12.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  There are no part-time friends.
13.  SELFISH is not a four letter word.  It’s OK to think of yourself first sometimes.
14.  Reality TV...isn't.
15.  Never say never.
16.  Relationships are HARD work!  For better or worse isn’t just a catch phrase.
17.  Pick your battles, then fight to the death.
18.  If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror, then how do you think other people see you?
19.  Making love and having sex is not the same thing.
20.  Shit happens.  Why spend so much time looking for someone to blame?
21.  Your beliefs are your beliefs.  Don’t try to make them somebody else’s.
22. If you like something because you think other people are gonna like it, it's a sure bet no one will.
23. Everything you think is important, isn't. And everything you think is unimportant, is.
24. The people who talk just to fill the silence, are the ones who rarely say anything.
25. Lean into it: Sometimes in uncomfortable situations the outcome doesn't matter. What matters is that you're there for it.
26. Knowledge comes and goes, but wisdom lingers.
27. The day you stop laughing…is the day you grow old.
28. Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react to it.
29. Don’t listen to what people say, watch what they do.
30. Inspiration is the act of drawing up the chair to the writing desk.

Bonus Rule: Give me the "Hollywood ending" every time. If I wanted reality, or shock value, I'd start watching the six o'clock news.  

Tell me, what’s something from your list?
 
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