|Oliver: Future Writer?|
The characters lack the elemental spark of authenticity.
So I’m a bit stuck, struggling to find my way when my wife and I buy a new puppy, a new addition to our family, and like any change to a family structure, there have been growing pains, but no matter the struggles of integration, our newest family member, Oliver, is one of my ‘people’. He nips and plays rough (as puppies do) and getting him acclimated to living in a house with rules (no chewing shoes, piddling on the floor or 1 AM barking/playing/whining, etc.) has been a challenge greatly offset by his adorable puppy face, but still a challenge.
My anticipation of the dynamic has been altered, as Oliver seems to better respond to my wife than to me instead of treating us the same, and thus far he prefers attacking the garden plants to chasing the ball. My minds eye, as we drove him home, featured a far more idyllic (hollywood-ish?) script. I thought his chew toys would provide entertainment, he would sit beside my chair in the evening with his only wish to have his belly scratched and that after an exhausting day, he would be content to sleep through the night on his nice new LL Bean bed.
But Oliver is a puppy. He also has a mind of his own, a personality with depth, a character that is independent of my desires and uniquely his own. In short, Oliver grows and goes in directions I can’t anticipate.
Just like any of my ‘people’, the people who make up my family, the people who make my life have meaning, with all the joys and conflicts and the daily highs and the daily lows. I can’t anticipate any of them, can’t make them do anything. We all act and interact off, with, against, because, despite our connections. Our personalities shape and are shaped by each other. To predict that shaping, that fluid organic nature of family, doesn’t work. It can’t work, because no matter the planning and the desire, each individual is just a part of the whole- we play our part and receive our cues from those around us, who in turn receive their cues in response to us.
This brings me back full circle to the new trick I learned (or really, re-learned thanks to Oliver), that when you try to force outcomes, when you lose respect for the individual and try to impose a personality on a character, there almost always is some negative push-back. I can influence and guide and shape, but just as with puppies and people, as a writer I’m just part of the whole, not the whole itself.
To create a character that feels alive on the page, you have let go of the plan and allow your character the freedom to make mistakes, to make choices that originate from that characters organic development rather than a master plan sketched out in advance. Shape and direct, sure, put if you try to squeeze, well, then you end with something flat and lifeless. That isn’t good for puppies, people or or fictional characters.
Now, if only Oliver could teach me how to reach the six figure income bracket. Maybe that’s asking too much from a puppy, even one as clever as Ollie.