Last night I was watching Mad Men. It's a terrific show for characters and character driven stories. But when I first started watching Mad Men, I had to put it down for a few weeks. I couldn't keep watching it because the people in that show are awful, terrible people. I could see how well written they were, but they were all despicable.
I was thinking about it again last night and how different they were than the characters I've written, or wanted to write about. For the past week, I've been writing about Alisha. And I've been writing the people in her life as flawed, but understandable. They're just people, and they have flaws, like anyone else.
When I look at Peter Campbell or Peggy Olsen, they're decisions and responses to situations can be seen. Peter doesn't like it when people are better than him. Peggy can't stand to see someone else succeed easily at something she does easily. And so their responses follow that path. It makes sense as a flawed people.
But all of their actions are completely terrible. They seek out to hurt and undermine other people. They can't ever be happy for someone else's success. When they're mad at someone, they really try to hurt them. And I don't understand it. Why are they acting like that? Why can't they be good people for one damn episode?
It reminded me from a line out of Babette. Ross says something like "The characters are all flawed like people in real life. You can't sympathize with anyone."
And I try to connect all these things.
I can sympathize with people in real life. There are some people I really don't like, because of personality traits or the things they say, but I think that there's something good about them. When I was a young boy, I once swore that I would only hate one person. That there was no one else I could've hated more than him. Since that time, I've been trying not to feel so strongly about someone else.
So it makes me think if maybe I'm not seeing the big picture, or enough of the picture. Are there really people like that? People that I can't stand at all. People who have no redeemable qualities outside of the interaction I have with them.
In the Perks of Being a Wallflower, Mary Elizabeth is kind of annoying, but she isn't a bad person. She's silly, but I don't hate her character. She exists and I'm okay with that.
In Mad Men, Peter is the worst kind of person. He doesn't love anyone. He spits venom. And maybe he exists and I just don't want him to.
What it comes down to is how I decide to write people. As of today, I'm incapable of putting down Peter Campbell to writing. I don't want to write about someone I can't relate to. I want them to have a human quality, something that resonates.
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