Everyone seems to love HBO’s smash hit series Game of Thrones, as much for its cast of remarkable characters as its plot twists and gore. I love the evil-doers of the show. I didn’t think anyone could outdo the callousness of the despicable Joffrey Lannister, and then HBO upped the ante with the introduction of Ramsay Bolton. Poor Joffrey’s evil deeds pale in comparison.
The reason why I risk receiving a cease and desist order from HBO attorneys by showing the picture to the left is because of all the characters in the show, the Many-Faced-God, (played by weirdly cute-looking German actor Tom Wlaschiha), reminds me of who I strive to be whenever I’m writing.
Whether you love them or hate them a story’s characters are what make it meaningful. Good writers are able to have multiple personalities. It’s not enough to be the protagonist. A great protagonist is only as good as the antagonists he fights against (or doesn’t). We writers have to be comfortable wearing the skin of all our characters, good or bad, cute or annoying, sympathetic or egregious. But how do we do that?
I support the philosophical argument that perception is reality. The same series of events can be so different, depending on viewpoint. Take the recent horrific massacre in an Orlando nightclub. From what I’ve read on social media, reactions to this incident range from personal grief and loss, widespread sadness and fear, support for survivors and the gay community in general, overt condemnation of the gay community as a plague on Christian society and, I’m quite confident, delight that a fellow Jihadist was able to pull off such a coup (although I’ve not personally seen that post).
Everything depends on a person’s worldview. If I were to write a story based upon these events, I would have to live in the minds of all these types of people in order for my writing to be credible and connect with my readers. But, can I be a male Jihadist, or gay, or Hispanic? Can I be a fervent supporter of the NRA? Can I be a cop, or a Muslim, or an emergency room doctor? Because, herein lies the rub; to be credible as writers we have to be a Many-Faced Writer, just like the Many-Faced God in Game of Thrones.
Great literature presents characters that are relatable. Jake Barnes in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises comes to mind. He wasn’t particularly heroic, but it was his vulnerability that connected with me. The same can be said of JK Rowling’s Sirius Black, or any number of other protagonists throughout her remarkable series.
In an effort to be a good portrayer of characters I work out. Not in the gym, but in my head. No matter how shocked I am personally about an incident, (i.e. my own worldview), I take time to think about it as if in the mind of all the players, good and bad, or weak and strong. Sometimes I’m shocked and a little scared by where my mind takes me, but I understand that I have to go to uncomfortable places in order to create good characters and make them real.
In what ways do you inhabit your characters as you bring them to life? Share your thoughts below!