|>You can write plenty of stories about established
>characters without trying to tell a story about them that simply
>doesn't make a lick of fucking sense when it comes to how the
>character has been portrayed for the last thirty years.
You just made my point for me.
Consider what you just wrote...that the character has been portrayed in the
same way for *thirty years*. No change, no growth, no surprises...thirty
Thirty years of lying fallow. Thirty years of being just one thing.
As a writer, I believe -- and this is subjective -- that if a character sits
that long without anything new, the character is dead in more ways than one.
It's a bell that just rings out the same note endlessly.
I came out of the junior college system (before ending up at SDSU) and in the
years after I got out of Southwestern College (the JC in question) I'd
sometimes pop by to see teachers and stuff...and so many times, years and years
after I'd left, the same people were there...doing the same things they'd done
before...taking similar classes...saying the same things they'd said
before...even to some extend *dressed* the same way.
No change. No growth.
Creeped me out in the worst way.
Now...on the flipside...I got an email last year from a woman I knew in high
school (just a casual friend, no more than that), and she was talking about the
guy she'd met there in class and, subsequently, married.
In the course of said email correspondence, she drops in the information that
about a year or two ago he moved out, started in on hormones, and is en route
to becoming a woman.
Even after thirty years, the most unlikely people in the world, the ones you
thought you knew everything about, can surprise the hell out of you.
A few months ago, a woman I've known as a friend for nearly twenty years took
her own life, something I could never have anticipated.
People change. Things change. The way we see them changes.
Yes, Gwen is no longer "alive" but as a fictional character she is really
neither alive nor dead...but her character persists in the books, in whatever
form, and in that respect she is as alive as anyone else...maybe, for Peter,
To leave a character stagnant, unchanging, and the way our main character views
her as equally unchanging for thirty years is as close to the death of those
characters as you can come. The one-note bell.
So you take a chance...you add a layer to Gwen that you couldn't have
anticipated, as with the cases I noted above...where you think this couldn't
be...but it is.
Phase one of the story is how does SHE react...does she stand with courage,
does she try to do the right thing, or does she go the other way?
People who are never tempted, who are never put in places where they need to
make hard decisions, have it easy and are the least interesting
characters...it's when you put them up against a wall that they become
compelling. I wanted to put her character up against that wall, to bring out
stronger and, for all the railing against her, nobler characteristics. The
Gwen who goes toe-to-toe with Norman, devil take the hindmost, is a woman who
is worthy of Peter.
Phase two is how it affects Peter...does he turn against her, or does his
affection for her allow him to accept this? Which requires greater strength?
Which tells us more profoundly what his character is like?
I've always tried to inject a level of realism in my work, and life is about
change, about surprises, sometimes pleasant, sometimes not...what matters is
how we *react* to those changes. Do they make us better or meaner? Stronger
Go read "The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg" by Mark Twain to see this played out
in ways better than I can describe it.
What you also have to remember is that I'm a *fan*. I grew up reading Spidey.
I, too, had (and still have) tremendous affection for Gwen's character.
Deciding to take on this story was very difficult for me.
But I felt it was in the end the right decision, and still do. Yeah, I could
leave the characters exactly as they were, and have them not change for another
five or ten years, however long I'm involved with the book...but would I
*really* be doing my job, or just cashing checks?
Anybody who hasn't changed a whit, who hasn't grown or shown surprises as a
person, in 30 years, as Twain said, is dead and rotten and should be shoved
down a sewer.
(all message content (c) 2004 by synthetic worlds, ltd.,
permission to reprint specifically denied to SFX Magazine
and don't send me story ideas)