Keeping it real is the write way to go


“For writers who knowingly lie, for those who substitute unbelievable human behavior for the way people really act, I have nothing but contempt. Bad writing is more than a matter of…fault observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do—to face the face, let’s say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street. —Stephen King, “On Writing”

 

The “nine old men,” named by Mr. Walt Disney, were the original animators at the Walt Disney Co. I was watching a documentary on Pixar, which talked about its history with the Disney Co.

The technology that transformed the original animation of Mickey Mouse into today’s animation of Nemo is beyond my technical comprehension and interest. What’s not, though, is the core goal that two of the “old men” talked about in an interview on the film. It’s the basics for every storyteller.

One of the men, Frank Thomas, said: “We call it the warmth. We call it the inner feelings of the character. It all comes back to their heart and how they think about it. How does he feel and why does he feel that way?”

They have to be three-dimensional, like real people in real situations. Not just visually, which is technically vital for character animation, but emotionally, too. They have to be driven to do something and the audience has to care enough to stick around until the end of the story.

Exactly what Stephen King was talking about in the quote above. Villains and heroes are human. Murderers help old ladies across the street. Abusers give hugs. Liars tell the truth. This is why Stephen King is a master author, I would guess. His writes honestly and enjoy his stories or not, millions of people relate to the truth of them, or at least the truth of the characters.

So it is with reality. It is hard at times to draw the line between real and fluff. But the older I get, the more I find myself appreciating and desperately searching for “real.” Call me cynical, but I see people turn everyday annoyances that everybody goes through into federal cases and I want to scream, “This is what keeps you up at night?”

But that’s just me being judgmental, something else three-dimensional people do. So, I have to constantly remind myself that “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it” (Atticus Finch).

Maybe it’s not about getting older; maybe it’s just moving along, trying to keep it real as time roughs you up. I don’t think there are age requirements for that, but the odds go up every year.

Life’s goofy that way—at the exact same time my compassion for tween-age angst (doesn’t get more real than that) is increasing, my tolerance for indecency is disintegrating. My acceptance of the mystery of my future is expanding as my patience for excuses and poor-me attitudes is slipping out the door.

You and I are three-dimensional and so is every other person we pass, stand behind in the coffee line, or get chewed out by on the phone. We have to separate what is about us from what is not. That simple thought puts an unexpected scowl or an encounter with a grump into perspective. And it might help us care about their story, or in the least, about them as a character in it.

We always think it’s “about us.” Sometimes it is. But thank God, sometimes it’s just not.


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