creating a/broad, November 2, 2013
Confronting the Character
by Cameryn Moore
Another piece came to me a few days ago, about the play that I’m working on. It’s not much, just a scrap of motivation and backstory, but it dropped in, and shifted everything around it, and jolted into place and got clearer.
I’m not sure what’s happening with this play. This is not the way I normally create. Normally I create, like, I’m directly, actively involved in cranking the script out, and I do it whether I really feel motivated or not, and the first draft comes out, either fast and furious or slow and laborious. That’s something I miss about doing the Canadian Fringe circuit every year: if you’re committed to doing a new show a year—and I was—then the shows have to happen, and I have to make them. I know that every year I will be creating a new play. This play is creating itself, and while I’m doing the homework—the brainstorming and list-making and stream-of-consciousness dialogue-writing—a lot of the big stuff doesn’t feel like it’s happening there. I have to wait for it. It just happens.
The doubt and the reconsidering are hitting me hard, in creating this character.
I don’t know if that’s just me taking a break or if my brain knows that I don’t need this full piece until 2015 or if, god forbid, I’m going down the wrong path after all and this is what the wrong path feels like, but that seems to be the way this play wants to be born: slowly, and with lots of stops and starts, accompanied by doubts.
I have to keep telling myself that this is okay—even though I don’t know for sure that it is—and that it’s good to go slow because I am once again treading into unfamiliar territory, that is, fictional characters. If there’s one thing that I can take away from my experiences creating fictional characters, it’s that it still freaks the shit out of me, and I’d rather not, but I have to.
The doubt and the reconsidering are hitting me hard, in creating this character. I keep writing things that should be simple and key, and out of nowhere they break up. They stop making sense, or I catch myself before writing a terribly obvious trope. I’m glad I have the self-awareness to stop before trotting out a dumb cliché. Is self-censorship always bad? I mean, I stopped myself from creating another wise-woman Happy Hooker. That’s a GREAT thing, in my book. But I’m wrestling with something really slippery, and that is hard. Something in the character keeps re-asserting itself, no, that is not who I am, that is not what I would do. She is telling me, I am more complicated than that.
The stuff that I have gotten used to writing and performing is me, right? And that is all very straightforward. I mean, it’s not really, but that life has actually been lived, is being lived, and so even though I still struggle to find meaning in what has gone before, those events actually happened. The primary material is reasonably solid that I’m working with. Furthermore, I have a decent sense of what is “in character” for me.
But now I’m back to square one, or maybe two. I’m not back at a zero; I’ve done a bit of this deep excavation before. With Release, I managed to keep track of my fiction, find some kind of truths for each of those six characters. But this girl that I’m working on, this girl who keeps pushing back against what I think she should want and do and say, she is making it hard. Or it’s hard, just because where I’m at.
I can’t remember what it feels like to be truly miserable
I’m … happy and confident, for the most part, particularly in the issues and areas that she and I share in common, around body acceptance and intelligence and relationships and sex. I’m not saying I’m fully self-actualized, or that I think I don’t have any “writing” left to do in my own life. But I’m good. I’m great some days.
Yay, this is a good thing! But I have forgotten, apparently, or buried memories of what it was like to be where this character is at. I have forgotten how I got here. My character is on a trajectory toward something better, and I can’t remember what that feels like mid-point. I can’t remember what it feels like to be truly miserable, to be in bad bad relationships, to loathe my body, to seek consolation and external validation to such an extreme.
I’m reluctant to go back there because it feels like stirring up shit, poking around the burial grounds. Those experiences are there; I know they are. I just don’t want to spend any more time on them than I already have in my life.
But this is not about my life, really. It’s about hers, my character. And I guess I have to give her the chance to have those experiences, too, even if I think I know how they will or should turn out.
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