I tried my best to write with characters who can at some level be able to read each other. Everyone has this capability. The guy on LIE TO ME can do it uncannily. I’d love to be at that level, but then I might not be a storyteller. Or a storyteller of fantasy, which chose me. So maybe I would. Who knows? I definitely don’t.
Giving this ability to characters lays down a layer of depth that we expect in real life but don’t necessarily notice. It grounds the characters as real people. And since two of my main characters have gone through a lot, married, with three children, they should be able to read/expect things from each other. That grounds their marriage, gives life to their relationship because similar things appear in our own: Her wanting to change something in him, him not paying complete attention to her, her telling him what to do, him taking her for granted, her doing seemingly illogical things to get his attention, him accusing her of that time of the month.
I’d recently joined a writing group to help get out of my own thinking, and in reading another’s work, I found that he did a great job writing about a new couple on a first date reading each other. With the newness and nervousness, misinterpretations are always common: Does she like me? Do I look OK? Can a girl like her like a guy like me? The kernel of all romances, I suppose.
Question becomes, can an author write about dating and relationships if they’ve never been in one? I ask this because in acting, life experiences can help the actor own the lines. What I mean by that is when they recite their lines, they’re not really reciting, they are saying those lines and meaning them. Acting proverb: Say what you mean, and mean what you say. You’ve seen bad acting. You don’t have to be an actor to see it. It’s a human thing. And you’ve seen great acting, I mean really great acting. Judy Dench comes to mind.
Same thing when writing about real people. I know, my book is a fantasy. But it’s a book for humans, so it’s about the human condition no matter the containers I use to express those emotions. If I’m going to try and ground these people, I have to be more aware of what it is that grounds characters than non-writers, or what I like to term, my audience. I don’t want to use the word hypersensitive, but maybe highly analytical.
Take the scene from ALIEN right before the chestbuster makes its glorious appearance. Facehugger had come off. Actor John Hurt (ironic isn't it?) is about to have some indigestion. He wakes, starving. Everyone is at the dinner table, plating their food. I remember Hurt's character chewing on a noodle, eating hungrily, and my stomach gurgled. I thought to myself, man, I'm hungry and that looks kinda good. Grounded. Few moments later, Ridley Scott makes movie history, scaring the shit out of me. Not literally. OK. A pebble.
Thanks to my best friend who turned me onto his amazing people-reading skills, I’ve spent the past decade reaching out with my Jedi mind. Yes, that’s right, I’m an amateur people reader, not a purple people eater. Though, I've never seen purple people. What I’ve found is that people reveal themselves without knowing they’re revealing themselves, and you can gleam a lot of information just by watching and listening to how their friends treat them.
A word of caution: Don’t over analyze and do it for fun. Taking it too seriously can reduce the amount of friends you have, which is probably why I’m typing this article alone in a coffee shop. Hmm. Anyways...
A friend of mine got upset because I was Facebook chatting with a female mutual friend of ours. I asked if he liked her and he said no. So what’s the problem? His answer: He didn’t like me talking to her when he was planning something with her. He knows that if he liked someone, I would never cock block his game. Since he wasn't interested in her, I didn't see what the issue was.
A rift cracked through our friendship. I felt like a gossip girl in junior high who got bent over and rammed. Not really, but my ego wanted to feel bad about it. But in my mind, I'd written him off.
Two weeks stroll by and he contacted me. We talked over the phone, which surprised me, and tried to mend things. I asked him what he'd been up to, and he told me he went to a play with a group of women. He named them off, most of whom I did not know. I've always been in long term relationships so I don't have a lot of women to parade in front of anyone let alone him. Then he told me of a conference he went to. Operative word: of. Not about. Exclaimed he ran into someone and I immediately knew who it was.
A few months ago he and I went on a hike and met a girl. I told him I liked her but wasn't in a place to ask her out. And, yes, it was her he ran into, which I found out later he contacted before meeting up with her. I didn’t think anything of it. I had no claim on her. And, no, I don’t think of women as property. Just belongings. But an overwhelming feeling came over me as I was driving over an overbuilt overpass. He did this on purpose. He stated long ago he had no interest in her, so why now? I never called him on it, there’s no reason to. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. But his intention of one-upping me came pretty loud and clear.
As I finish this article, with one less friend, there’s a certain sadness that swirls around. Not because I’ve decided for myself he’s not a good friend, but that in my need of male friendship, I allowed myself to be his. Dammit, I can read people! I should have read this! Alas, no. Good life experience, and I truly mean that. Thank you my non-friend acquaintance dude.