Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Pullman
Dusted: The Unauthorized Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Lawrence E. Miles, Lars Pearson, and Christa Dickson, includes a sidebar concerning “Spike’s Nature” in which the author (presumably Dickson, since she waxes poetic about “the sight of James Marsters half-naked [sic]) suggests that the series’ writers view the same character differently, creator Joss Whedon seeing the vampire as redeemable and Doug Petrie as unredeemable. Other writers also have their own points of view concerning Spike’s nature: “Any attempt to work out whether he’s good, bad, or just going through his second adolescence is doomed to failure,” the author or authors conclude, “because frankly it’s hard to find three episodes in a row which all agree” (203).
In an earlier post, “Writing as a Schizophrenic,” I suggested that one way to layer a character (that is, to give him or her several, sometimes conflicting traits, making him or her a round and dynamic, as opposed to a flat and static, character) is to develop schizophrenia. Not real schizophrenia, of course. Vincent Van Gogh’s ear aside, there’s a limit at which an artist should draw the line when it comes to making personal sacrifices for the sake of his or her art (or the man or woman of his or her dreams). I meant imaginary schizophrenia or, even better, the sprouting of several heads, each with a mind of its own. By adopting different perspectives (political, religious, philosophical, and otherwise) and different points of view even among these perspectives (Democrat, Libertarian, Republican, conservative, moderate, liberal, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheistic, agnostic, dualistic, monistic, materialistic), one could add depth to one’s depiction of a character.
The authors of Dusted suggest another way of accomplishing the same enrichment of one’s characters: imagine him or her the way that several established authors might portray the same character. How might Stephen King depict your protagonist, antagonist, or other type of character? How might Dean Koontz represent the same literary person? How about Robert McCammon or Dan Simmons or Bentley Little? By sketching your character as other writers--and famous or at least well established ones, at that--might see him or her, you can yourself develop a richer understanding and appreciation of him or her. If the character is a complex one, you can even create various scenes that show his or her perhaps conflicting characteristics. Perhaps you started with a cartoon-style hero or villain. Now, he or she has developed into a dramatic persona worthy of William Shakespeare (or maybe King or Koontz, Whedon or Petrie).