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11/28/2006: Why John Lennon Remains Interesting
Imagine you're faced with writing a scene in which a character needs to be, say, resentful. (Or bored. Or very tired. But let's go with resentful for now.) You might well be concerned that the scene will be weighed down with a sullen, quiet, humorless presence, unlikely to engage the other characters. This could well be true, unless you realize that "resentful" tells you how the character *feels* but it doesn't limit you in terms of how the character *acts on* how he feels. Instead of making the resentment manifest itself in uncommunicative grunts, you might end up with a more active, more fun scene if the character adopts an attitude of forced joviality to hide his resentment. Or maybe he starts spouting flippant sarcastic jokes that attack his enemies while he hides behind the wall of "I'm only joking". Or perhaps he misdirects his resentment in the form of cruelty toward an innocent third party. All of these are a heck of a lot more interesting than slouching and grumbling.
It's really worth taking some time, as you're mapping out a scene, to think not just about the emotion, but about how it manifests. Anger can emerge as humor. Self-doubt as clinging affection. Fear as overblown bravado. Boredom? Well, we all know that's often expressed with minor random destructiveness. And tired doesn't have to mean sleepy, it can mean jittery and punchy -- so much more fun!
The scene is almost always much more interesting when these more varied expressions of emotion are present. You can pick a reaction that makes the character more active, for one thing, and for another, the character is made more complex. Also, the characters around him are forced to be more intuitive, and even story possibilities open up, since there are now hidden motivations, and possible moments of quiet revelation and other interesting things.
Maybe there's something deep here about what makes some people interesting to us in real life: not that they *feel* anything any differently than other people, but that they just *wear* their feelings in ways that surprise us and challenge us?
Lunch: Again with the Vietnamese food. A pork sandwich on toasted French bread.