The Things Below the Surface

Random and rambling thoughts on the importance of seeing the complexities that exist within different characters.

We all love stories, no matter what form we may prefer them in: movies, books, plays, games, sports, art, etc.. Stories have the power to draw us in and keep us invested day after day, pulling at our hearts and minds. As time goes on, we often grow fond towards the stories that we encounter and treat them as treasure we own and hold. We analyze the plot and the relationships that are involved and wonder what will come next. I’ve always been fascinated by how two people can read the same story and yet finish with very different conclusions and ideas and often enjoying spending my time trying to reconcile and mesh together the differing point of views that exist on the stories I love.

Yet, more and more as time goes on, I have noticed something that is often lacking in other’s perspective. They can spend hours analyzing the world setting, the events that occurred, the relationships that exist- yet the characters are left untouched for the most part. I remember having a conversation with a friend once about a book we both read which they were not fussed on. I remember being shocked and talking about how connected I felt to the characters; their pains, thoughts, emotions. In this conversation, a dichotomy grew- to me, these characters were real. I could see the humanity within them that led them to make the decisions they did. But, for my friend, the characters were just that: figures, tools and vehicles whose main role was to create the need for a story and to push the plot along. They weren’t real or deep to her like they were to me.

It absolutely baffled and shocked me at the time to realize that something so fundamental and essential to my enjoyment of reading and consuming stories was not even on the playing board for her. How could this be, I wondered? Didn’t she know what she was missing out on by not delving deeper and connecting more with the character that existed within the story? To me, such an analysis adds context and depth- adds humanity to a story. These characters can teach us and can help us understand the human soul and mind. Yet, to many people, they do not see or are not interested in such an exploration. Maybe it’s just me who is off here, who is making a mountain out of a molehill. But, I have always been endlessly fascinated by the human soul and heart and the different paths, roles, and actions it can take depending on the atmosphere around them.

I’m also a big believer in the idea that stories are there to teach us- to import some type of knowledge to us on some level or other and it is the lessons about humanity that interest me the most. For it is the humanity within the characters that makes the plot what it is- it stands at the core of everything. Yet, too often are characters written off too quickly. Good or bad, weak or strong, happy or sad, mean or kind, etc.; to many, characters exist only in shades of black or white and nothing more. Nothing saddens me more than to see a character that I view as complex and fascinating degraded down to singular words or character types. They are angry a lot, so they must be a horrible person, one person declares. But what is at the root of their anger? I wonder. What drives them to act how they act? Even the darkest villains or the greatest heroes have something that sets them apart from the rest and shows their soul.

I love to burrow down into the rabbit hole of character development and progression again and again in the hopes of finding something new to study and treasure. To travel down the alleyways and roads of character’s minds, trying to understand what makes them tick. It honestly fills me with such joy and accomplishment the more I puzzle out a character which is why I often get so confused when I meet and speak to people who do not read the way I do. Don’t they see what they are missing out on? Sigh, maybe it really is just I who is the odd one out, though. Maybe when I ramble to them about character depth, emotions, thoughts, purpose, and idea in the hopes of lighting a spark in them, all they see is a crazy person in front of a corkboard of papers connected by pins and red strings, haha! Yet, I still can’t help but wonder how different things would be if character depth and progression was given just a bit more thought and effort from both readers and authors. I can only imagine that much would be gained in understanding humanity and the world around us if such a path was taken.