Thursday, November 19, 2009

Amusements in Character Development

Amusements take many forms. The term can refer to way in which character amuses himself (playing solitaire in his room, always seeking the company of other people). Or, the term can refer to the choices characters make in types of amusement they select (playing sports, participation in local theater groups, buying stocks, tormenting cats). Amusements can be very telling in character development because it is an area where the character has made visible choices. Amusements are not something you are born with.

Amusements can be great points of conflict between characters. Characters who find watching hours of television amusing can easily conflict with characters who can’t stand television as a medium. Characters who are ardent followers of sports frequently clash with significant others who call themselves football or baseball widows. A fine example of that conflict could be found in the Broadway musical “Damn Yankees” and the song “Six Months Out Of Every Year” in which the wives complained that six months out of every year they might as well be dead.

Amusements can be great unifiers as well. In the Harry Potter series Ron and Harry are unified by their love of Quidditch, which continually separates them from Hermione who hasn’t a clue about how they feel toward that game. One of the marvelous things about J.K. Rowling is her skillful use of things that are familiar to us as readers and their application to a completely different and very parallel world.

The darker amusements – arson, tormenting and torturing, sexual deviations – are very useful in plots. They can help in the creation of villains and, if blackmail is involved, make other characters very vulnerable to discovery.

Questions about amusements might include: How does this character amuse himself? Is this character capable of amusing himself? Does he constantly require outside stimulation? Does the character want people to know about the things that amuse him? Are his amusements his darkest secrets? What does this tell you about the character? Does the character simply watch other people playing what amuses him, or does he participate himself and if he participates how? Is he a star? Is he always picked last? Does he help facilitate the pay of others? How do the character’s amusements advance the plot? How do the character’s amusements contribute to your understanding of the character?

If you are writing a term paper you might use amusements that you think the character might enjoy that the author didn’t include and justify your choice. If you are writing about historical characters you might write about what amusements a character like Hamlet would enjoy if he were alive today and why.

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