Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beings in Love: On Dialogue and Character Development in Works of Fiction

Blogger's Note:

Recently a friend asked me about character development, where two of their characters were falling in love in a novel being written. The author asked me how to portray this? I responded with a letter, (a bit obtuse at times), but I believe some of the excerpts of the discussion may be useful. Therefore, aspects concerning 'Dialogue and Character Development' have been reposted below.

Basically, my argument assumes: 1) That characters in a a novel may (but not always) follow social norms and rules from the world of real life (this provides a cultural reality for readers, also known as frame of reference); 2) Characters falling in love in a novel can at least sometimes fall in love like real people do (although idelaized fantasical components may also occur); and, 3) that characters in a novel can encounter each other through dialogue in contextual moments that enhances believability (if the author is open to what the characters are 'saying' to each other).

The main point is that characters are not unique and separate from each other as they interact in your novel, they are happening to each other in a very real sense. Can you (as the artist) listen to what their dialogue is saying in the historical context you helped to create as an author?

Also, the blogger asks for a philosophical point of forgiveness, mainly that the philosophy of dialogue requires authenticity in speaking and address which may beg the question if we are dealing with fictional characters. However, (and without undue philosophical explanation) I will say, there is a difference between fictional characters and fictional selves; and if we are writing of two characters in the plane of human existence encountering each other, the philosophy of dialogue may be assumed to be in operation except where the character(s) are shown to be deceitful in the latter sense of misrepresentation that is deliberate and willful ( a fictional self), as no genuine dialogue can happen in such encounters. Yes, such characters will still have dialogue in general, but their stance is not one of truly meeting another character. Keep in mind I am speaking of two types of dialogue here, but both are important in fiction, characters speaking to each order, and the deeper sense, of characters happening to each other in a true personal sense.--T.K.

Excerpt One:

introductory comments:

...I have been thinking a great deal about what you wrote about, it is quite revealing in many ways... very interesting in terms of the writing process itself and your struggles/glimpses into musings about and with character development...

Of course what I write is always interplayed with my strong philosophical and psychological components of my education and experiences.

Your latest blog indicates that you have gotten much of it figured out, in terms of who your hero is. He is a very special guy, but I think a very good mix of ideal and real qualities which is a dialectic that makes us up in our perceptions of self to other persons in reality after all.

Excerpt Two: On a character falling in love and being loving towards others:

...if your hero loves everyone (sort of like a Messianic hero) then we must realize that he loves contextually and dialogically. That it is the concrete situation with a person he is addressing, therefore is it not possible for him to focus his love in the purest sense to that person, if he is truly present with them, and loving them ? (Obviously to some he might have the love of a father, a friend, a mentor, a warrior, or lover). Now, if he takes this sense (of loving purely with his whole heart) with him across all those that he loves, and his love is pure, why shouldn't it be the same in magnitude if love is infinite?

I know it begs the question whether or not any person (character or real) can ever love infinitely in a finite body or situation, or confined to our perceptions of self and time, but you must let me make my point. heheheh

Basically, your hero can be all of these great things you envision based on the many types of love because he has learned to be in the moment with other persons and situations that he meets. If he is focused on the exchange that is taking place in the dramatic action of the moment then he is present with that other character at the moments that you are describing, and as they are speaking to each other. In this sense, he is falling in love with nearly everyone because he loves almost everyone he meets (to some degree)! heheheh. (the author said this was part of his character--T.K.).

Excerpt three: About characters falling in love:

So the real key in writing about the couple falling in love, is I think, to let him love her as the action is happening btween them. This is the true psychology between person and person, in the moment, each perceiving and reponding to the other, with all of its historical demands and uirgency of what is going on NOW. This is the 'meeting' I-Thou that Buber speaks of. The two characters are happening to each other, he responds to her, she responds to him.

It is natural then, as they have dialogue and act in the unfolding story for them to love believably as long as you can write from each one's perspective in the reality of what the conflict and story presents as you are creating it.

I hope I (myself) can learn from what I wrote here so that I can write and show my characters falling in love in a believable manner!

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