Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Character Development Part III

Personality or temperament types can also be a factor in character's psychological functioning. The actor can push the character slightly away from the normal line to create more drama and more interest. Having some knowledge about these abnormal behaviors will aid in portraying normal characters as well as those at the extremes. The following paragraphs identify a number of personality or temperament types along with the related behaviors.

Personality types fall into two categories. You have the extrovert and the introvert. An extrovert focuses on the outside world. They normally have low arousal/stimulation levels. Behavior is usually directed toward creating change and increasing arousal. The introvert, however, focuses on an inner reality. They have a moderate to high arousal levels and tend to avoid social contact and situations that might further increase arousal. They also maintain more orderly, less impulsive lives.

Behaviors can be further broken down into those that are neurotically abnormal. These have been given medical labels and the following generalizations offer insights about behavioral choices. These behaviors, in a milder form, are found in just about everyone and are thus good resources for building characters.

Manic. A manic thinks he can do anything. They appear optimistic, highly excitable, very social and easily given to emotional outbursts. They can be frivolous and over-talkative, have a short attention span, and their threshold for boredom is low. They pursue what they want, and tend to trample on others with little thought. They may be workaholics, driven by greed, or the belief that everything will work out.

Paranoid. A paranoid person believes people are out to get them. As a result, they tend to be aggressive, desire to be leaders, to have power and prestige over others. They are decisive, stub-born, opinionated, defensive and often competitive. They are also arrogant, conceited, and boastful. Often harbor unreasonable grudges, quick to take offense, very sensitive to any criticism supporting a belief that others dislike them.

Psychopath or Sociopath. The psychopath is one who is mentally unbalanced. The sociopath is one who is antisocial. These two behaviors are often harden criminals who have no moral center. They can be fearless, untrustworthy, out for personal gain, self-preservation, and have little empathy for others. These types of people do not transform during the story.

Depressive. Depressives are subject to black moods of worthlessness and inferiority. They conserve emotional energy and tend to be hypochondriacs or blame themselves even when not at fault.

Obsessive/compulsive is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety, or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions. Symptoms include excessive washing or cleaning; repeated checking, extreme hoarding, or preoccupation with sexual, violent or religious thoughts.

Schizophrenic. People with this disorder tend to be shy, overly sensitive, self-conscious and easily embarrassed. Protect ego by avoiding open conflict, withdrawn, sulk and generally have a difficult time communicating.

Anxiety Neurotic. People with this disorder worry about and fear everything. They are concerned about personal safety, terror-stricken about what might go wrong and about the general realities of life. For them disaster lurks everywhere and they spend their lives trying to avoid anxiety.

A character with an abnormal personality will not always fall completely in one category. Manic-depressives fluctuate between the two, as does paranoid-schizophrenics. One should draw upon these categories for broad strokes and consistency in creating normal characters or those more extreme, the abnormal.

Drama and conflict can result from relationships between these abnormal or slightly abnormal characters. Paranoids need someone to persecute them, and will find the manic's aggressiveness a threat. The manic finds the depressive's lack of energy and drive a frustration. The psychopath has no understanding of the anxiety neurotic's fear.

As you can see, thinking of your character with some abnormal tendencies can add conflict and complexity as well as give the character an intriguing edge.

Other abnormalities might also include the disorders of bipolar, attention deficit, and Asperger's. The following discussions provide an entry-level to these disorders and should be researched further before applying.

A person with a bipolar disorder might have a wide spectrum of moods; elevate energy levels, coupled with depressive episodes. In some people, depression and mania may rapidly alternate. At extreme, symptoms may include delusions and hallucinations.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is characterized primarily by inattention, easy distractibility, disorganization, procrastination, forgetfulness, and lethargy-fatigue. While found mostly in young children, adults with it tend to make cognitive adjustments and develop coping skills minimizing the behavior.

Asperger's syndrome or disorder is characterized by a qualitative impairment to social interaction, by stereotyped and restricted patterns of behavior, activities and interests. Also typical of the condition is an intense preoccupation with a narrow subject, one-sided verbosity, restricted prosody, and physical clumsiness.

Our conscious awareness makes up only 10 percent of the human psyche. What drives and motivates us develops more from the unconscious, the feelings, memories, experiences, and impressions that have been imprinting our minds since birth. These elements, which are often repressed because of negative associations, drive our behavior, causing us to act in ways that might contradict our conscious belief systems or our own understanding of ourselves.

In portraying a character, one must consider the forces that can cause us to act in ways that contradict our belief systems or our own identities. These unconscious forces achieve more power when they are repressed or denied. Unacknowledged, they can drive people to do and say things against their will. Suppressed, they have more potential to get people into trouble. For instance, a man may appear gentle, but later portrays a violent nature that even he may not have known was there.

The unconscious manifests itself in your character through behavior, gestures, and speech. All the underlying drives and meanings that are unknown to the character will nevertheless affect what he says and does.

Another facet of the character is the private and the public sides. Sometimes there is little difference and with other characters, the change is radical. For instance, a person speaking at a large gathering may display an air of confidence in public, but in private, alone, he's a nervous wreck. This facet of the character also fits those with secret agendas, the hypocrite, and the deceiver. The character will change as the comfort or confidentially level changes.

Characters exist in relationships, sometimes as couples, partners, or teams and at other times, as outright opponents. The ratio between attraction and conflict becomes an important ingredients in the relationship, as does the characters' make up, and the contrast between them. Creating these elements requires a collaborative effort and again the character traits should support the actions and the story.

Characters can also interact as the victim, persecutor, and rescuer. In some stories, they might be labeled as the creator, preserver, and destroyer. In each case, the role of the aggressor can change to any one of the three. One should also know that the victim, rescuer, or persecutor do not always stay the same throughout the story. They can interchange depending on the complexity of the plot. Defining these roles within the scene and story will likewise aid in formulating the characters and the traits that support their actions.

There are, of course, many other considerations in developing the character. These include the back-story, the character's biography. Things like: age, posture, appearance, physical defects, class, occupation, education, home life, religion, political affiliations, hobbies, amusements, sex life and moral standards, ambitions, frustrations, temperament, attitude toward life, complexes, abilities, I.Q. level, personality (extrovert, introvert).

While these considerations have their importance, one should keep asking, how does it affects their present actions. These are qualities the actor can bring to the scene, the actable qualities that embody the character and serve its function within the story.

Constructing the character is a building process, putting the various aspects in place one piece at a time. Working with each piece until it fits in, then adding the next one. Some actors try to create the character in its entirety, complete with every detail and nuance. And while all the elements may be there, the character lacks clarity because the information is too muddled for the audience to understand. Instead, paint the broad strokes, the core, and the function of the character. Then find the actable qualities that convey these character facets, facets that help move the story forward.

As you can see, developing the character demands understanding the entire script, and researching and determining how your character will function within the story. To better understand your character, it's also important to observe the life around you and reflect on your own experiences. Realize that you too have an inner voice, a perspective that can help bring the characters to life and make them unforgettable.

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