The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Fifth Level Characterization


The Fifth “Chakra,” said to be located in the throat, controls communication. This is the seat of the old “garbage in/garbage out” situation.  Education, verbal patterns--language, vocabulary, slang, clarity, honesty, and so forth.

Our ability to express ourselves is vital to emotional health, and stifled communication can be incredibly destructive.  Think about the missed and mishandled communications in your own life.  Character can be established in a blink through a few lines of dialogue (didn’t we know everything we needed to know about “Rocky” within the first few dialogue scenes?) and a clever writer will contrast a character’s inner essence with his outer communication skills.  “Good Will Hunting” tells of a math genius who hides as a janitor.  No one who speaks to him casually would have had any idea at all—his speech patterns disguise his intellect.  The contrast between his “presenting personality” and his actual personality tells us that this is a confused young man, trapped between his self-image and his potential.  Of such conflicts are drama made.
What was the worst miscommunication of your life?  With your parents?  A husband or wife?  Did you ever lose a friendship because of a lie?
How honest are you?  How did you develop your sense of ethics around honest communication? Are there situations where honesty is not called for?
What are the different levels of communication that have impact on your life? Within a person?  Between two people?  Within a family?  A community?  A nation? The world?  Between Man and God?
What are the primary differences in communication styles between men and women?  How have they caused stress in your life? How have you worked to resolve them?

Every answer you give, or every question for which you have no answer, is the potential core of a character.  Look deeply enough into yourself, and you'll emerge with knowledge of all men and women.  It's worth the effort!


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