What Makes You Squirrelly?
Posted on October 5, 2012
I have this new obsession as of late and it is the HGTV channel. (Home and Garden TV, for all of my international peeps.) I can not get enough of it. I watch every damn thing on it. I think it’s because I’d like to eventually purchase something. I also watch it because I think it helps to dream.
I have one particular show that I like called, “Property Brothers.” Basically, two, handsome, twin, Canadian brothers – one a realtor and the other a contractor – show you the home of your dreams. But, of course, the ready-to-move-in, home of your dreams is always WAY out of your price range. So, the twins show you how you can buy a “fixer upper,” renovate the hell out of it, and get the home of your dreams for a fraction of the cost. I find the show endlessly fascinating. The people purchasing the homes are almost always couples, so the amount and the nature of the cray-cray on display is always enthralling.
There was the guy who could not see past the renovation. He was a gentlemen -literally- without the power of imagination, and he was a cantankerous mess, until the very day the job was done. Then, he was overjoyed. There was the lady who bought everything she could find online via craigslist – tile, fixtures, furniture – all in the hopes of driving down the price and driving the contractor crazy. There was the dude obsessed with the house reno in the hopes of giving his pregnant wife everything she ever wanted, etc, etc.
Then there was the one that bothered me. There was one woman, I’d say she was in her early 20s and something about her ticked off all my hot spots. It all started around when the couple was trying to figure out which fixer upper they were going to purchase. This always goes the same way. They see two houses, hate them both, but then the designer/ contractor shows them on a computer screen what the two houses COULD look like. From there, the couple picks the house that they would like to purchase. This always follows a formula: they hate the houses, see the plans, and then pick a house that they hope will be transformed. That’s how it goes. Always. I know this because I watch the show more than I care to admit.
But, not with girl in question. She kept saying, “I just can’t see it. I just can’t picture it. I just don’t know how THAT is ever going to look like THAT.” And before I can scream, “Use your imagination, you crazy, woman-child,” the contractor and the hubby are off to appease, I mean, set her fears to rest. They bring her BACK to both houses and show them to her AGAIN. Okay, so she couldn’t see it from the beginning, right? No biggie. I mean, why am I being so hard on her? Well, for me the seeing of the houses again was only the tip of the iceberg. Once the couple finally decides on a house, the woman goes, “But, I really want this house. Is there anything we can do to let the owners know that we really want it? Like, can I write them a letter?”
The contractor looks slightly stunned, but quickly recovers and thinks it’s sort of “sweet” and “cute” that she wants to send them a letter. The husband looks at her AND actually says, “I’m not doing that. You can go ahead and do that, but I’m not…No.”
She writes the letter. They get the house. The contractor even mentions that maybe the letter helped after all.
Regardless, this woman IRKED me. And that’s the interesting thing. Why did these things irk me? They’re, in the scheme of things, not that big of a deal. In fact, her feelings card may have helped score the house for them. Yet, I found myself wanting to shake her like a bad nanny. What the hell is my problem?
Why was I so irked?
Maybe it’s because she seemed like such a baby to me. Maybe it’s because the letter writing thing is something that I couldn’t necessarily do with my own Wifesy and expect (no, better yet, assume) that it would have a positive outcome. Sure, some people would give the house sale to the two gay ladies who wrote them a nice letter, but some people would be turned off by it and NOT. Maybe it has nothing to do with the gay issue at all. Maybe it’s that this baby-woman seemed so weak to me and that just drove me – momentarily – feckin’ crazy. She seemed like one of those fragile flowers who needs everything done for her. She never does the household bills because, well, “Numbers are hard…” “And can you lift that box for me because my vagina won’t let me…And wah, wah, wah.” Maybe I just don’t like weak people.
What’s my point? Believe it or not, I bring all of this up for one reason and one reason only — KNOWING WHAT BOTHERS YOU (AND YOUR CHARACTERS) IS SO IMPORTANT FOR THE WRITING.
I read a brief interview with a screenwriter, Will Reiser, the other night and he said something along the lines of, “I get to know my characters VERY well before I sit down to write my script. I analyze them…psychologically.” I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist.
I realized (and it was like a light bulb moment for me) that you must know what BOTHERS your characters. Knowing their background and history is not enough. You need to know what bothers them. For me, it would be being around weak people. I’d have to find out why. Maybe because I feel that they highlight my own weaknesses? Maybe because there’s some primitive part of me that thinks the person who can’t pull her own weight (especially the woman) is going to be the thing that sinks the whole ship? Or maybe that’s it right there…maybe some men have formed their opinions of women based upon encountering adult females like the baby one that I just mentioned. As a result, they see most women (if not all) as being HELPLESS. And I don’t like being viewed as helpless. That could be it. It could be any number of things.
Now, what about the baby-lady? If I were going to have to write from her pov, the world would be very different. Perhaps, she saw herself as being the contemplative, unsure, needs-to-be-cared for, qualities of her personality as an essential part of being a woman. Maybe for her, that’s what it means to be female. Maybe her nature is just purely submissive and there’s nothing she can or would want to do about it. For, regardless of what I like, it takes all kinds to make the world function. Further, maybe she would see a person like me as dangerous for a variety of other reasons.
All of those things – the bothersome things for both her and I are the very things that I think help to formulate good and solid drama. Maybe when you know what makes your characters itch then you have some deep and interesting writing.
Now, the only question is – how do you find out – without a shadow of a doubt – what the personality and psychology of your main character is? How do you analyze your own creation? If you have ideas, Mother wants to hear ‘em.
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