Monday, April 5, 2010

Complicated Characters

Lonely people can make fascinating stories. I think so. Maybe that's because I kind of identify with lonely people, being a lonely person. But the Sad Clown act always appealed better to me than happy clowns. Happy clowns annoy me. Never liked them. Not even as a child.

A few months ago I stumbled across an old Jackie Gleason movie on our local PBS station: Gigot. It was a movie about a mute man living a pitiful life who befriends a woman and child down on their luck. Apart from the humorous aspects of the film, of which there were many, what I especially liked was the sensitivity of Gigot. Not that every lonely person is automatically sensitive. Some are lonely because they're so creepy nobody wants to be around them.

I remember seeing the movie "Lili" when I was young, starring Leslie Caron. She played a lonely young women who becomes part of a circus troupe. I haven't seen the movie in years but I remember it pulled at me.

There was a scene in a Burt Reynolds move (The End) which just made me cry. It was near the end, right after Reynolds' character realizes he doesn't want to commit suicide after all. He makes it back to shore only to find Dom DeLuise's character there - ready and willing to help him die. There is a struggle scene which ends with Reynolds throwing DeLuise to the ground and screaming at him that he doens't want to die and so "Quit trying to kill me! Do you understand?"

It was DeLuise's reply which makes me cry. He chokes up and says, "Yes. You don't like me anymore."

There is something in those words put together in that sequence and uttered from the heart that tears at me. It was at that moment that DeLuise's character, who had hitherto been annoying to me, endeared itself to my heart. Suddenly, I felt I understood this character. And in understanding, I found I liked him.

Sad characters are not so easy to write as one might think. For one thing, they have to have a reason to be sad. Seldom do single events turn people into sad people. Single events can make people sad, but unless that event is completely devastating it probably won't have the effect of turning that person sad henceforth. Humans tend to recover. Especially if we have support of people we care about.

The sadness I'm trying to talk about seems to result from a person seeing their self-worth as no longer a part of themself. The two have become disconnected. You will notice - in real life - that sad people often are very giving. Why? Most likely because the times when they have received what they want have resulted from when they gave.

And so they give.

Money. Food. Possessions. Sex.

What makes their situation even sadder is that there are a lot of people who recognize the signs of such people and will take complete advantage of their giving nature. They will take every penny they have. Eat them out of house and home. Steal possessions. Make them their sex toy instead of their lover.

These are the stories that are hard to write. They may seem fairly straightforward, but they're not. Not if one is to make them believable.

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