Thursday, April 16, 2015

WRITING AND CREATING CHARACTERS by KEN FARMER



RIGHT BRAIN, LEFT BRAIN:

It's generally understood today about the function of our brain; the left side is the analytical or logic (linear) side and the right side is the creative or abstract side.  The left is usually jealously dominant and will suppress the right whenever possible. Most people's brains have a great difficulty in transferring information from one side to the other. The thinking side is always ego based and is the side used when we try to "interpret or analyze"; the writer has to learn to ignore the ego and allow the creativity to rise to the surface. The left side is used in preparation/research—the right side is used in writing.

Good Writing is Never Read;  
it is Experienced. 

CREATING AN ILLUSION

A paradox of writing is that its most important element is not what is said or done, but the implications of the same. Every word or action contains an explicit or literal meaning…and an implicit meaning; and the latter is always more important. Explicit phrases present the "letter of the law", whereas implicit speaks of the "spirit of the law". In writing: "The letter  killeth, but the spirit  givith life."

Always work from the inside out…if you work from the outside in, 
all you have is an empty shell.

Creating a character is, in a sense, like creating a fine painting in which each line, however delicate or broad, and each color, no matter the shade or value, serves a useful purpose in conveying the image, and no line or shading of color is without function in the final presentation of the image from the mind of the artist.  The writer must utilize essential details of his character that serve specific purposes of characterization and emotions that are presented in nuances of color rather than in the primaries. I tend to create my characters and then get the hell out of the way and let them tell the story…and they tell it best with emotions.

"Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem." - William of Occam (1287-1349) "OCCAM'S RAZOR" - Translated freely: "One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything." The razor was intended to cut away muddles and confusions with little or no value. Knowledge is based on experience and self-evident truths. In other words, don't tell everything…leave some blanks for reader to fill in.


It is not the word or expression, but the spaces between
that makes it storytelling.


BEN JOHNSON

One of the great character actors I ever had the pleasure to know had many layers but epitomized the definition of a true 'Cowboy'. I refer to my good friend, Ben Johnson, the wonderful cowboy actor who passed away in 1996.  Ben won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (also the British Academy Award, Golden Globe, Natl. Board of Review and New York Film Critics Circle Award) for his role of "Sam the Lion" in Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show". Ben performed in 79 movies in his career and once told me, "Kenny, I ain't no actor, I just play Ben Johnson…but I play him better than anyone else I know."   
Ben's personality was so unique and interesting, that that's what the directors and producers wanted him to play.  One thing I noticed about Ben...he always looked like he knew something no one else knew...so to create layers,  I always give my characters a secret that only they know.

Don't read the words…read the story.

Ben would never curse on screen and this was a source of disagreement between he and Bogdanovich.  He would say, "There's too many kids that watch my westerns, don't intend it to be me that leads 'em down the wrong road." The script called for "Sam the Lion" to be a trash mouth.  Ben refused…Ben won.  Most of his dialogue was his own creation. Ben was, in actuality, a lot better actor than he gave himself credit for because he was always totally committed to the part and played a wide range of characters.  He used to tell me that he always knew all the dialogue before they ever commenced principle photography; which tells me he knew the story.


The Writer is the Brush; Emotions are the Colors; 
the Character is the Canvas.

EMOTIONAL CHARACTERISTICS:
The below listed characteristics are the "What"  about your character; you should also create the "Why", by creating fantasy emotional memories in the character's Back Story. Here is a list that can be an adjunct or part of the Back Story.
Strengths/Weaknesses
Introvert or Extrovert (Personality category or type)
How does the character deal with anger?
With sadness?
With conflict?
With change?
With loss?
With love?
With fear?
     With confrontation?
What does the character want out of life? (Goals)
What would the character like to change about himself or in his life?
What motivates this character?
What frightens this character?
What makes this character happy/sad?
Is the character judgmental of others?
Is the character generous or stingy?
Is the character compassionate, cruel or indifferent?
Is the character generally polite or rude?
Is the character easy-going or irritable/grouchy.
Is the character self-conscious?
Is the character confident or insecure?

The Primary Tool of the Storyteller…is Emotion.

I wrote a non-fiction book some twenty years ago for my acting students, entitled "Acting is Storytelling. Since I have begun writing fiction…I've discovered that there isn't much difference between acting and writing…both are Storytelling and as I stated above, the primary tool of the storyteller…is Emotion.

A Story Without Emotion is like an Eagle Without Wings.

I prepared a section in Acting is Storytelling for my actors—A nine hundred word Dictionary of Emotions. All emotions can be reduced to two Prime Emotions—Love and Fear. Think of a giant pendulum with one side of the arc being Love and the other Fear. Every emotion you can think of will fall under one or the other…to a greater or lesser degree. I have broken down just the letter A into Prime and Secondary. You will notice there are far more emotions that fall under the Fear category than under Love…I find that quite interesting.

If anybody wants a PDF of the entire thirty-five page dictionary, just email me. Comes in pretty handy when writing. Ken Farmer - pagact@yahoo.com.

LOVE                     FEAR

A DICTIONARY OF EMOTIONS

A
PRIME: LOVE
Primary:
ABANDON - A complete surrender to feelings or impulses.  
Secondary:
ENTHUSIASM - Great excitement or interest in a subject or cause.
  EXUBERANCE -  High spirited, lively.
SPONTANEITY -  Arising from a momentary impulse.

PRIME: FEAR
ABANDONED - To feel deserted; forsaken
Secondary:.
DESERTED - To leave alone.
FORSAKEN -  To be renounced; left alone.
FRIENDLESS - To be without a friend.
JILTED - To be cast off callously.
NEGLECTED - To be ignored.
OUTCAST - Excluded from society.

PRIME: FEAR
ADAMANT - Unshakable; refusing to yield.
AGGRESSIVE - Self assertive; forceful
HEADSTRONG - Very stubborn; bullheaded.
CONTRARY - Willful or perverse; opposite in character.
DETERMINED - To have a firmness of purpose.
INSISTENT - To be firm; to assert or demand.
MULISH - Feeling sullen; stubborn.
RELENTLESS - Unyielding; pitiless; persistent.
RESOLUTE - Unwavering; firm or determined.
RIGID - Fixed; not flexible.
STUBBORN - Unwilling to change; obstinate.
UNCOMPROMISING - Unyielding; stubborn.
WILLFUL - Deliberate, voluntary; obstinate.

PRIME: LOVE
ADMIRE - To regard with pleasure, wonder, to esteem or revere.
ADORE - To worship or regard with deep love.
ESTEEM - To regard with admiration or respect.
HONOR - Respect highly, revere.
IDOLIZE - Adore or love to excess.
RESPECT - To regard with deferential esteem.
REVERE - Hold in deep respect or veneration.
VENERATE - To respect deeply.

PRIME: FEAR
AFRAID - Filled with fear or apprehension.
Secondary:
ANGST - Anxiety, neurotic fear; guilt, remorse.
APPREHENSIVE - Suspicion or fear of future trouble.
AWE - A mixed emotion of respect tinged with fear.
DAUNTED - Intimidated.
DISMAYED - Discouraged or depressed fearfully; dread.
DISTRESSED - To suffer anxiety.
DREAD - Overwhelming apprehension and awe.
FEARFUL - An illusion of anxiety, reverence and dread.
FRIGHTENED - To be suddenly afraid; alarmed.
HESITANT - Slight apprehension.
INTIMIDATED - Filled with fear; overawed, cowed.
PARALYZED - Inoperative with fear; unable to move.
POLTROONERY - State of extreme cowardice.
RECREANT - Cowardly or craven.
TIMOROUS - Subject to fear, timid.
TREPIDATION - Dread, apprehension, anxious.
TERRIFIED - Having extreme fear.
UNSURE - Uncertainty, faltering, irresolute, doubtful.
WARY - Cautious; prudent
.
PRIME: FEAR
AGITATED - Excited, troubled, disturbed, discombobulated.
Secondary:
FAZED - Disconcerted.
RUFFLED - Flustered.
UPSET - Emotionally disturbed or agitated.

PRIME: FEAR
ALARMED - Sudden feeling of fear; disturbed, excited.
Secondary:
DISTRESSED - Extreme mental, physical, emotional pain.
FEARFUL - Experiencing fear.
FRIGHTENED - Terrified or scared of something or someone.
HORRIFIED - Painful and intense fear or dismay.
PANIC - Sudden overpowering terror.
PETRIFIED - Paralyzed with terror.
RATTLED - Stirred up, roused, nervous.
ROUSED - Provoked from state of security to excited activity.
SCARED - Filled with fear or terror.
SHAKEN - To tremble with fear or shock; become unstable.

PRIME: FEAR
ANGRY - Feeling of wrath, ire, displeasure, resentment,  extreme vexation.
Secondary:
ALIENATED - Unfriendly, estranged.
ASPERITY - Ill temper, harshness, roughness.
BITTER - Grievous, full of affliction.
CROSS - Showing ill humor, annoyed.
DISPLEASED - Unsatisfied, annoyed or irritated.
DISTEMPERED - Disturbed, ill at ease.
ESTRANGED - Unfriendly, hostile.
GOADED - Incited toward some disposition or action.
HARD - Not easily moved; unfeeling, hostile.
HUFFED - A sudden rush of offended dignity.
ILL-HUMORED - Given to bad moods, sullen.
INCITED - Stimulated to a fit of anger.
INSULTED - Having one's self-respect offended.
IRASCIBLE - Easily angered; prone to outbursts of temper.
LIVID - Extremely angry.
MIFFED - Taking offense.
NETTLED - Irritated, vexed, annoyed, upset.
OFFENDED - Wounded in feelings, affronted.
PIQUED - Having one's interest or curiosity aroused.
PISSED - (pissed off) Irritaded, angry.
PROVOKED - Irritated to anger, annoyed.
RESENT - To feel bitter.
RILED - To be made angry, irritated.
SORE - A state of being irritated or resentful.
VEXED - Annoyed, bothered.

PRIME: FEAR
ANNOYED - Bothered or irritated; perturbed.
Secondary:
AGGRAVATED - Provoked, exasperated, displeased.
ANTAGONIZED - Opposed to another by provocation.
BOTHERED - Irked, anxious or concerned.
BUGGED - Pestered.
CHAFED - Irritated.
DISGRUNTLED - Discontented or unsatisfied.
DISPLEASED - Unsatisfied, irritated; to dislike.
EXASPERATED - Frustrated, irritated.
GALLED - Irritated, vexed.
IRKED - Disgusted, irritated, bored.
TANTALIZED - Tormented, teased.

PRIME: FEAR
APATHETIC - Uninterested, indifferent, not caring.
Secondary:
BLASÉ -  Uninterested, bored.
BORED - Made weary by tedious or dull repetition.
CASUAL - Showing little concern.
DEADENED - Deprived of vitality.
DISINTERESTED - Without concern; indifferent.
DISSOLUTE - Relaxed, lacking firmness of temperament.
EASYGOING - Without worry or concern.
HALFHEARTED - Lacking interest or spirit.
LACKADAISICAL - Lacking spirit or liveliness.
LETHARGIC - Sluggishness, inactivity.
LISTLESS - Lacking energy or enthusiasm.
NONCHALANT - Coolly unconcerned or indifferent.
PASSIVE - No visible reaction or resistance, compliant.
PHLEGMATIC - Calm, stolid temperament.
RELUCTANT - Disinclined.
APATHETIC (Continued)
SHIFTLESS - Lacking ambition or purpose. 
SLOTHFUL - Given to lazy or sluggish behavior or moods.
SPIRITLESS - Lacking courage, vigor or animation.
TORPID - Dormant, deprived of the power of motion or  feelings.
WITHDRAWN - Emotionally unresponsive, shy.

PRIME: FEAR
AROUSED - Stirred to activity; excitement
Secondary:
AWAKE - Alert.
AWARE - Having knowledge or cognizance; mindful.
DISTURBED - Upset emotionally; disquieted
EXCITED - Roused to stimulated to strong emotion.
HOT - Intensity of emotion; sexually aroused; lustful; indignant.
INSPIRED - Stimulated creatively; noble emotion.
INVIGORATED - Animated, stimulated.
MOVED - Affected by emotion; stirred.
OVEREXCITED - Excessive excitement.
STIMULATED - To rouse to activity or heightened action.

"It is just as hard to make a toilet seat as a 
castle window.  
But the view is different."  
- Ben Hecht -

7 comments:

  1. I agree totally with you that acting and writing are two sides of the same coin. Your book on acting sounds exceptional.
    I also agree that Mr. Johnson was underrated by many. I took great pleasure in watching his work. Thank you for another useful post. Doris McCraw

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree totally with you that acting and writing are two sides of the same coin. Your book on acting sounds exceptional.
    I also agree that Mr. Johnson was underrated by many. I took great pleasure in watching his work. Thank you for another useful post. Doris McCraw

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Doris, glad you enjoyed it.
      Ken

      Delete
  3. Thank you for a great post. Ben Johnson was (and still is) one of my favorite character actors. And as for the dictionary....priceless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let me know if you want the whole thing.
      Ken

      Delete
  4. Thanks so much for such a comprehensive post, Ken--especially the sampler of your dictionary of emotions.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Some great emotion reminders. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete