December 19th, 2019
“That was so out of character.”
I think about character a lot. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, maybe it’s because I’m a human who is always changing, but often, and usually while I’m lost in thought, drinking my coffee quickly because it’s the perfect temperature, I think about the things that constitute a person’s character.
Can it change? Are there root qualities planted in each person, unbreakable and immutable threads of personality woven through every single unique soul, that gives you your character? Or can character be completely changed from birth to death?
“That was so out of character.” That’s the common comment, a regular complaint of people that sticks in my mind. If you follow a character — in a series of books, in episodes of a TV show, in issues of a comic, in stages of their life — wouldn’t you expect there to be a level of change in that character as they continue to grow and learn and live? And if so, if they do or say something they wouldn’t have five years ago, is that something that would be considered “out of character”?
I think some people think so.
And on the other side of that coin, are there some parts of each human that will always just be that way, for better or for worse, and that then defines their “character”?
I worry about that because I feel like that idea stagnates people. It puts you in a box — a character box — that you’re told or you decide you couldn’t climb out of if you tried.
I don’t know about you, but I say fuck that idea.
Give me characters who change. Give me people who burn the toxic layers above and below their true skin to show us colors we’ve never seen. If there are permanent characteristics that make you who you are, let them all be positive traits, and never accept the negative associations that others let themselves define you as.
Because you decide your character. And you see the characteristics in others that you choose to see.
And if something isn’t working? Break character. Learn and change and grow and break the fuck out of everything that everyone thought they knew.
And always remember to let the characters in your life do the same.