The Ecstatic Gap

One of my pet writing peeves (one that I continually guard against, not always successfully) is the overly self-aware character–especially, but not always, as narrator. The character who appears to know exactly what they’re feeling, and is able to articulate that, either in narration or dialogue.

This simply doesn’t ring true to me. And it makes for one- or two-dimensional writing, absent the fascinating gaps between thoughts and words, reality and perception. I’ve always argued that, for the most part, a character’s actions should be two steps ahead of their awareness; and that writers should seek to inhabit their characters’ flesh & blood selves, not just their thoughts.

A recent feature in the New Yorker about playwright Richard Foreman (and I think playwrights are generally better at avoiding the overly self-aware character) had a great quote from Foreman’s introduction to one of his earlier plays:

There are writers who despair that a gap exists between the self and the words that come, but for me that gap is the field of all creativity–it’s an ecstatic field rather than a field of despair.

Published in: on December 13, 2009 at 4:46 pm  Comments (1)