Saturday, December 3, 2011

Today's Inspiration #5

Today's inspiration: the creativity of script and actor.

The dilemma: how much of a great performance should we attribute to the writing and how much to the acting?  There has to be a balance, of course, no matter if it's a television show, movie or even a simple thirty second commercial.  The perfect confluence between the written word and the actor's interpretation of it create a surprising event: time is frozen as we are captivated by the moment, forget our problems and concerns and we smile, or laugh or cry, appropriately, synchronously.

For example, consider the quirky and creative ads run by Dairy Queen recently DQ - good isn't good enough.  My reaction was instantaneous when the actor stated, "we don't just blow bubbles, we blow bubbles with kittens inside them."  It is hilarious the first time, maybe even the second time.  And you know that you are not laughing alone - it's one of those instant shared experiences.  You know you can mention it to a friend and instantly agree on the quality of the creation.

Obviously, that whole scene works because of the writing.  Contrast that with Tom Hanks performance in the movie Castaway.  The movie is much more than a two hour advertisement for FedEx because of the stellar work of the lead actor.  The character of Wilson (an oscar worthy performance, underplayed by a volleyball) could have died on the page if Hanks didn't make it so engagingly believable.  A great performance, like this one, enhances our interpretation of similar events throughout our lives.  For example, the image of Hanks on the life-raft kept coming to mind as I read the shipwrecked scene in Martel's fabulous "Life of Pi".  The movie version of this story will be out next year, but I suggest you read the novel first.

In the Socialite series of books, I have tried to create characters that enable a similar reinterpretation of everyday experience.  The first book, "Bees to Benny," deals primarily with the ordinary lives of two families.  Although the Socialite series is social SciFi, I have purposely kept the science fiction jargon to a minimum in the first book, to allow the reader to relate with the main themes of "first love," "protective parents", "school rivalries"and of course "the ubiquity of the internet".  The science fiction is subtle at first, building as the reader gets more involved in the whole Socialite story over four books.  I wanted it to mirror our own experience with social networks which tends to be very personal at first, until that day when you get a comment from someone in China or Indonesia - you are suddenly awakened to the fact that very little on the internet is private and even you, sitting alone on a computer at home, may one day post something that has global significance.

While reading the first Socialite book, my teenage son asked me why I chose to write Socialite in a limited third person voice.  I told him, it allows the reader to see more of the action than any one character in the story does, but leaves a lot of the characters' motivations and intentions to the reader's imagination (which might not be the case if the voice was omniscient.)  I think it also more closely resembles our lives, where we only get partial knowledge about a person's intentions and must use intuition and interpretation to fill in the gaps.

In a performance, actors do a lot of this interpretation for the audience - their facial expressions and body language transform the variety of interpretations of a character held by different readers, sometimes limiting the interpretation, at other times broadening it, giving it authenticity.

The combination of a well-written character and a well acted performance inspires me to try harder in my own creative efforts.  What about you?  What performance or literary character affected you so deeply that you felt inspired?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments.