Am I showing what it means to be human through my characters?
What does it mean to be human? Whoa! That’s a huge question, and it’s a question that writing and all other art forms seek to answer in their own way. The first time I saw Marc Chagall’s I and the Village, I wondered about Chagall’s view on humanity. I wanted to know what that green man was thinking in his painting and what the people in his village were like. The same year, I remember a teacher asked us to answer “what does it mean to be human?” in a class journal. The answers were . . . well . . . thoughtless. My classmates and I said we’re here to love and be loved, to make a living, to serve God, to help each other, to be happy, to learn, to create peace, to make the world a better place, etc. etc. It sounded like a Miss America pageant; we answered the question in a way that would make our teacher comfortable and not think less of us. The truth is, humans are so complex. We hate and love. Humans have the ability to feel many positive and negative emotions.
So what does any of that have to do with writing and art? I’m examining what it means to be human for my writing and my characters. My characters need to be real people. How do I show how humans experience life through my writing and characters? Well, there’s no better human I know than myself. I believe I have dozens of emotions, even some that are only named in art, and I can feel them simultaneously throughout my life. They seep into my choices every day and week. Sometimes, this leads to obstacles in my life, but life goes on.
I want my characters to seem like they have both love and hate in them, and they could at any moment feel any emotion. I don’t want my characters to be “grumpy,” “bashful,” “sleepy,” etc. I want there to have a constant struggle between emotions inside of their souls that slips out into their choices. I want my character’s thoughts to be a battle between two giants destroying the landscape of their eternal being. It’s my goal for every character. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? It makes for great story goals and disasters. Through writing and reading fiction, I hope to understand myself more and all of these emotions spiraling and colliding with each other. I know not everyone is like me, so I don’t know if I’ll understand humanity in depth. However, I am hoping to better understand others situations through my characters.
What about you, how do you show what it means to be human through your writings? How do you create real characters that others can identify with or better understand themselves through?
Have a great week everyone, Biz Boston.