|Characters: Creating Characters|
Hypocrites are those who pretend to believe something different (and usually better) than they really believe. A politician might state that State schools are good for everyone, yet send their own children to private schools. A religious leader might preach moral values yet have a sleazy secret life. Salesmen are expected to be liars, and hypocrisy goes with the job. Lawyers may well defend someone they know to be guilty, yet presenting them as innocent. It is well known that in Opinion Polls the many people are likely to express opinions that are acceptable rather than what they actually believe.
To some extent the majority of people are hypocritical about something or other. Our place in the world depends on how others see us, and to some extent on how others want to see us. We may want to see our idols as pure, unblemished people, and refuse to see they are normal people. This creates a situation where the idols have no choice but to cover up their private lives. This in turn creates another group who is intent on uncovering their private lives. The Sunday Papers thrive on such material.
There is also great satisfaction to be had from seeing 'how the mighty have fallen' when their sins are uncovered. Typical areas of hypocrisy are:
In some cases we can be hypocritical for good reasons. We might tell a seriously ill person that they are better than they are so that they do not worry too much. We may tell a friend that they are more competent than they are in support of them. We will normally tell children how good they are when they make something, as a way of encouraging them.
Again, we do not normally believe much that we are told in adverts or junk mail. That is, we assume it overstates the products and services. We also assume that the people who create these items know we don't believe it.
We assume that if we take our car to be repaired or call in a builder to do a repair they overestimate the time and cost.
In general people have jobs or a lifestyle that requires them to:
Write out which of the above three categories the following people fit into:
Charlie Chaplin's walk, dress, and way of dealing with problems made him a screen Character. To a large extent such characters live in their own world, and are not influenced by what is generally accepted as normal by most people. It is the character's manners, habits, style, and attitudes that define them.
Again, the problem of consistency has to be well thought out. Chaplin's 'weirdness' extended to everything he did in a story. Not only did he do odd things, he did them in an odd way. The humour was in the fact that basically, he was trying to do what normal people do in a normal way. His end points were understandable.
The key to eccentricity is that it does not prevent the character achieving his ends. Groucho Marx walked in an odd way, as did Stan Laurel and Sylvester the cat. Outrageous clothes, speech mannerisms, odd habits and beliefs are all part of a Character's eccentric make-up that helps to define them. It can extend to having odd pets and friends, living in odd places, and having odd phobias, like believing we are being invaded by little green men.
Eccentricities can be brought out gradually. Most of us have them yet they don't show until the right circumstances present themselves. A perfectly normal person might faint at the sight of a spider crawling towards them, while another will assume snakes make perfect pets. A very rich person might be mean over trivial sums. A mild person might fly into a fury over a minor incident. Eccentricities are developed over the years, so if you are going to use them in your characters, try and work out a reason for them.
When using eccentricities, make sure to get the right level. A person who is offbeat may just have a very personal style, but be otherwise normal. To be outlandish means taking odd a bit too far, but without offending. Eccentric people are usually quite contained. Peculiar people we tend to distance ourselves from. Bizarre people we either accept or reject. Grotesque people we avoid at all costs. Weird, unreal, strange, abnormal, ludicrous, outré, are all words that describe different types of behaviour that makes a person different from 'normal'. Once you set your level of abnormal behaviour, don't stray too far from it.
Here is a questionnaire set out in a national paper. It puts forward certain questions that are aimed to give insight in the person rather than their views of the world:
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© 2002-2009 Stan Hayward. All rights reserved.