My blog, like myself, is a work in progress. Princess Scribe was originally formed to pass on in-the-trenches thoughts on screenwriting; however, it has morphed into more than that – as I have morphed into a new shade of Anne. As a creative, I find it nearly impossible to separate life from art, and thus I find myself detailing personal experiences, putting myself out in front of the webiverse, naked for all to see. Sometimes the reactions are lovely and positive, at other times, the troll gallery flares (The Concrete Ceiling), but whatever the readers moods are, it’s never a dull moment at Princess Scribe.
Yesterday, I wrote about compassionate living; today, I’d like to talk about compassionate writing.
“Love your characters. Love them all. Even the villains. Especially the villains,” intones Robert McKee at his Story seminar. God love you, Bob. I will never, ever tire of your amazing show.
He’s right, you know.
“Love my villains? What kind of person do you think I am? How can I love a [fill in the blank with any reprehensible kind of human being you wish]?”
While I’ve never asked McKee about the above (he glowered at me once from his throne during a break and scared the shit out of me), I think that his statement is a generalization, not unlike Blake’s oft misunderstood Save the Cat! moment. What I believe is that while you might not want to invite your villain over for dinner, you do need to understand them.
And that takes compassion.
If you actively hate your antagonist, if you use your writing as a present form of revenge therapy against one who has wronged you, you run the risk of creating a stereotype as opposed to an archetype. You will probably write a caricature, instead of a fully formed character.
Great writers know this inherently. Thomas Harris knew it when he created Hannibal Lecter, as does Akiva Goldsman. Think on this – look at movies such as A BEAUTIFUL MIND, THERE WILL BE BLOOD and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Who are the antagonists in these films? Ultimately, the protagonist’s inner tortured self. What kind of characters are created when writers don’t love their villains? A lampoonish, cartoonesque over-the-top moustache twirling Jekyll and Hyde. It makes for some amusing moments on-screen, but ultimately the results are painfully laughable.
It’s a mad, mad world. Art imitates life, and as the human race desperately needs to return to the art of practicing compassion, as writers, so do we. Our stories and our characters deserve this hard work. They deserve to be created with a rich emotional palette. They are complex – as our we.
When you are out in the hustle and bustle of your world today, and someone cuts you off at an intersection, or gives you the finger, or hands you the wrong order, remember that you do not know what they have been through up to that precise moment. Try a little tenderness, and be kind to one another.
Now, go write.
HRH, Princess Scribe