Saturday, September 18, 2010

Character Politics

Do you know your characters' politics?


My stepmother loves George W. Bush. She is not a fan of Barack Obama. This is central to her identity as an intelligent business owner, a Christian and a conservative. It also was very hard for her to talk about anything with my liberal hairdresser. They both respected each other, but neither could be dissuaded from the gospel of their politics. And they both had a lot of passion about the topic.

Now, before you dismiss this bit of character development by saying, "My character is not interested in politics," let me remind you that we're all political in some way-- even if it boils down to one of two philosophies:
1. The "Why vote? It doesn't make a lick of difference" people
2. The "If you didn't vote for anyone, you can't complain about anything" camp
(a variation of the "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" mentality)
That's step one. Do your characters vote? Why or why not?

Let me ask my mortal characters:
Adelaide~ She votes, primarily liberal, but often forgets elections, can't remember when the primary is, and couldn't tell you who her congressman is.
Étienne~ VOTES. Religiously. Liberal, and because he's French, votes primarily socialist, though does get into the oratory tricks of French politicians.
Basilie~ VOTES and has had a high-ranking political career depending where in the series we're talking about. Despite her Frenchness, she's very conservative. HATES the French social welfare state, and has had a career as a cutthroat businessman in the United States (and a Harvard MBA) so she's a savage capitalist.

Now. Step Two.
Why does this matter?

Character's political leanings (and their religious attitudes/practices) can provide key insights as to how they will treat others.

Each one of the character's above runs into someone begging for money on the streets of Manhattan. They are each alone, so they have no one to impress or influence their actions.

~ gets overwhelmed. Hands the guy some cash. Moves on and feels guilty on and off for the rest of the day.
Étienne ~ Hands the guy all the cash in his wallet and goes to the store and gets him a new pair of shoes
Basilie ~ ignores him.

Now, if they were talking amongst themselves about what had happened... how would the conversations go?

If Adelaide told Étienne that she felt guilty, he would tell her she did the most she could and then he'd go find the guy and buy him a new pair of shoes. Okay, maybe not with the shoes, but it could happen that way.

If Étienne was late for a business meeting because of his outing with the beggar, his staff would murmur and Adelaide would adore Étienne all the more for his compassion.

If Basilie heard that Étienne was buying shoes for homeless men again, she would call him an idiot and threaten to take his charge cards away.

And Étienne would consider Basilie's approach cruel.

On election day, there's some heated arguments in my universe.

1 comment:

  1. hmmm. makes me wonder what my characters are. Not that it matters, but something to consider.