Expanding the Notions of Character
by Tantra Bensko
Even experimental writers may find it easy to take for granted what a character is, as characters are defined in such a limited, predictable way in almost everything we see around us, from movies to books, but the range of what the potential is that remains to be explored is vast. Let’s push ourselves to throw out the old notions of what a person is, using characters in our fiction as a tool, and we can discover new glittering aspects of reality.
In this new quantum physics dominant paradigm, we are generally somewhat familiar with the continuum of consciousness, the interaction of all things. The outlines we pick for a person are almost random bits of this flux of particles moving into and out of this reality, into parallel dimensions. Yet, we still prosaically consider the self to end at the edges of the skin.
But the molecules are NOT captured by the sheathe of the skin, and they have been proven to have memory, and intelligence, communing with everything around us, and sensitive to our thoughts, and the words of those who speak to us.
We breathe in and out molecules that which have been in the lungs of countless others through history. Even the water molecules we breathe in and out have memory, and hold imprints within them. As we breathe them out, what effect do they have on the world, and what are THEIR experiences? Can we write from the viewpoint of the flow of molecules and their intelligence, moving from one person to the next? Or one animal to the next? The breath is a system of interaction between the output of plants and the input of us, and vice versa. Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Even plants have been proven to have powerful awareness and interaction, memory, and so our closed system of being a human, or a literary character, could include the movement of a character’s identity as the plant beings moving into the stomach of the human and the intestines, traveling through the blood into the eyes.
Our labels of ourselves as closed systems are obviously random ways of corralling small parts of our interactions on all levels, as we are made up of all the experiences we have had from a controversial “beginning.” A “character” could be the statements made to a person as they are carried from one brain to another, making changes, and could be the visual stimulous of one person in the process of being branded onto the brain of another. It could be the movement of the actions of one person as kisses someone for the first time, the molecules of the lips interacting, the forceful meaning of the deep kiss being thrust into the receiver for ever and influencing his decisions his whole life, making a difference in his sexuality and beliefs about love.
How can we decide to contain or liberate a character’s edges, if we think about it anew? Does a character need to be a person, to begin with? Hasn’t that been done? Can it be a school of fish, a school of children as an entity, a vaccine moving through a person and causing the person to catch what it was supposedly trying to prevent? Can it be the energy of an aura being sucked by a vampire out of one person’s body and transformed into its new host’s mind? Can the characters flow from one parallel reality into the next, from one lifetime to the next, pulsing out of the moment, as some physicists claim time does? Can the character be a war, the brains within it like cells? Can it be a spring shower, the rain drops aware of all they land on, becoming those things?
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link to "The School" by Donald Barthelme. This is a good example of using a class of kindergarteners as a character. Weird and brilliant stuff.