It’s character building time again, boys and girls–and by character building I mean a character I’m working on. Well, it’s always a work in progress–my role playing character I’ve discussed before–and I’m always digging deep into something to make him more real.
So here’s the deal: of late I’ve seen him really doing well in what it is he does–but he’s doing too well. Dice have been very good to me and it seems like the kid is top of the class without even trying. With me so far?
Because he ended up in a special school for special people he was pretty much your disaffected tweener geek with few friends, uncaring parents and a massive inferiority complex that often manifested at times into over the top behavior that allowed him the chance to act out and pretty much tell his critics (aka, everyone else), “Yo, suck it!”
But now: he’s doing very well; teachers seem to not only like him, but some feel he shows great potential; he’s in an advanced class where he’s shown he’s got the right stuff; and he’s even had the chance to play the hero for a bit.
Yeah, you can see it coming, can’t you? A hard rain gonna come, you betcha.
Now, getting into this kid’s head is pretty easy. After all, when you take his character description and apply it to yours truly–hell, people, you can see I’m drawing on experience. A lifetime of it, as a matter of fact.
The thing is I know pretty much know what’s driving the character. I knew it months ago when I wrote up a dream sequence near the end of May, and now it’s 3 months later and everything is coming up roses, so to speak. If I didn’t know any better I’d say when I wrote up the dream in May I knew I’d be here, right now.
Having to get into his crash and what comes after, though . . . it’s painful. Really painful. If and when this thing happens to my character–I’d rather it didn’t, but it makes sense for it to occur–I’m not envisioning this as being a simple case of him having a huge hissy pout and turning pissy and moody for a few days after which his girlfriend pull him out of his slump: No, I see it as being along the lines of him flipping out and completely losing his shit, after which he goes into a full-on crying jag meltdown. Because he has a lot of pent up baggage and it needs getting it dealt with, and a lot of times said dealings are messy.
Again, I have a lot of life experience to draw on. And every time I start to draw on that well, I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach. One that says, “You wanna keep that door shut, dude,” ’cause I know if I start looking in there, down in whatever scum pit of misery I keep those memories, I’m gonna pull out shit I don’t want to remember . . ..
Like the sort of stuff that I kept with me for decades. The stuff that used to jump around in my brain and drive me even crazier than I was already; the stuff that turned me to self medication–aka, drinking a few cases of beer over a weekend–in a huge way; stuff that made me keep the numbers of suicide prevention hot lines handy–just in case, mind you.
There’s a reason I don’t keep guns or large knives or razors or a lot of pills of the sleeping variety in any of my homes, and it’s not because I’m worried my kids would ever get into them . . ..
In the introduction to “All the Birds Come Home to Roost” Harlan Ellison talked about how difficult it was for him to revisit his memories concerning his first wife in order to define a moment in a character’s life with a similar women. If you know Harlan’s then you know about his first wife, and the introduction leaves it pretty clear that delving back into that nightmare was something he’d rather not perform. But he did, because the paragraphs that came from the introspection helped make the story perfect.
I’m not writing a great story here–or am I? Am I really creating something incredible with this role playing character? It’s very possible, though I can’t say it’s a story in the traditional sense. It has the feel of a great story, however, and it’s something I keep at and, over long spans of time, discussion with my collaborator.
But is it really worth it to get into the dark corners of my head, of my mind, of what probably passes for a soul and think about all the times I was friendless? About all the times it seemed like nothing I did when I was 11 was any damn good and even then it seemed like there wasn’t any point to what passed as life? About all the times when I struggled to make friends, to speak to girl, to just accept the fact that I always felt useless?
Sort of like I’m doing now?
Damn, man, there’s now easy way out. I don’t want to fall back on the old adage that writer’s suffer for their work, because I was suffering for a long time before I ever started writing–and though the suffering is less and the writing a little more, it doesn’t mean I’m not affected by anything of mine that is put out there for all to point at and go, “Really?”
Ah, why do I make myself suffer for a character?
Because it’s the only way to make it real. Isn’t that obvious?