Monday, August 9, 2010

without personality

Every now and again, I think about L’Écume des Jours, a novel by Boris Vian in which very little attention is given to building the characters. We can tell them apart―all four of them have distinct characteristics, maybe two or three each. Our understanding of them relies on our stereotypes. And beyond this, the story isn't about characters growing, changing through circumstances. They experience their circumstances, the vivid poetic quality of experience turned into a surrealist tragic fantasy.
I'm brought back to how much of appreciating life and experience doesn't rely on an understanding of personality. In my looking at psychology texts, I'm intrigued by this small divide that seems to exist between attributing behaviour to circumstances or to personality.
I often find myself wanting to leave characters simple within their circumstances, merely vessels that exist and move within situation. Situations that aren't overwhelmingly dramatic, sweeping through life and overpowering the inclinations of personality–just life… with the smallest of its details, breezes rustling hair, the kind of hair we all have, even those of us who shave our heads, tweeze our eyebrows.


  1. Sometimes no matter how much an writer paints a character, the reader's own, stereotypical visions smudge the character's image.

  2. yes! agreed. Its the thing I love about art, and writing... the fact that a good piece will draw on the lived experience and the memory of the reader. And by drawing on the readers reality, it becomes another reality altogether, something greater than it was initially.