Breathing Life Into Characters…

…I’m not talking about characters we read about and say they come to life on the page. All writers aspire to that. : ) I’m talking about the thought that the mind of an artist/writer could actually bring to life a physical character merely through the power of his own creativity and imagination.

I love magical realism, so stay with me here. To my mind, that means a blending of magical elements with the real world, or the world we know. Even though the reader/viewer understands the seeming impossibility of the situation, there is a seductive whisper of, “What if?” that draws them in and holds them captive.

Our speaker, Erin Reel (in white) being introduced.

I think it was Pratchett who said magical realism is just a fancy term for fantasy. Whatever! I like it. : ) I love the thought that there is so much more to our world than we know or understand. It’s spine tingling to think that we use such a small percentage of our brain, and if we could expand that use and really delve into our imaginations we could create something truly awesome.

This is a photo of some of my writer pals at a recent LARA chapter meeting. Can you feel the collective energy? I think of our motto as, “We Make Stuff Up.” Anyway, back to the purpose of this post. Yes, believe it or not, there is a purpose.

The movie Ruby Sparks, deals with a frustrated boy genius, living in Los Angeles, who wrote the next great American novel at age nineteen. He had huge success. Fast forward ten years and he’s visiting a therapist because he can’t write. His love interest of five years has walked out on him. He’s shy, has a certain intellectual arrogance, strong control issues, and is self-absorbed. And yet, he’s adorable. Paul Dano plays the role of Calvin and does a fine job of showing his nerdiness and his neediness. His only friend is his brother, played by Chris Messina. Throw in a young woman, a lovely dog named Scotty, and you have a romantic comedy told from the male perspective.

A vision of a young woman comes to Calvin and he begins to write about her. He creates her. He falls in love with his character and imagines she is his dream love interest. Zoe Kasan plays the role of Ruby (and is also the screen writer) and is interesting, quirky, and loveable. She comes to life and shows up in Calvin’s home. Of course Calvin questions his sanity and confides only in his brother.

There is a zany, sweet tone to the story and it never succumbs to cheap jokes. It’s light, funny, flirty and almost dreamlike. The trouble starts when Calvin realizes Ruby is visible/real to everyone else. He has complete control of Ruby’s moods through typing his thoughts onto paper. He can make her do anything he wants and in knowing that you understand and feel the pain Calvin is going through. He must question his values. He really loves her and wants and needs this relationship. How much can he manipulate his partner, is it right to do that? Will he create a monster? Will he become the monster? Will he have to let her go? What would happen if he destroyed the manuscript? There are so many questions. : )

There are also wonderful brief roles from Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas, who are older hippies living in Big Sur. Bening is the mother of Calvin, and Banderas is her partner. They add color and flavor to an already colorful story. There’ll be no spoilers here but just know that this movie comes highly recommended by me. It isn’t earth shattering, but it is honest and real and raises some interesting questions about relationships, control, and creativity. I promise you’ll leave the theater in a better mood than when you arrived.

What do you think about fantasy, and magic, and have you read or seen anything recently that spoke to you?

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12 Responses to Breathing Life Into Characters…

  1. Thank you for reminding me about this film. I saw the previews at my local artsy fartsy theater and was immediately intrigued. I’m also a huge Paul Dano fan. He is the most unusual and talented actor we have going these days.


  2. Nan says:

    Great topic, Roben!

    Just checked out the trailer and I can’t wait to see this movie! It’s showing at our local artsy-fartsy theater and I’m inviting Husband on a date tomorrow night. Looks terrific! Thanks for the tip!

    I think most romantic stories are all about fantasy and magic–I want my readers to feel the magic of my stories. This movie sounds like the kind of magic I like because I’m not so much into paranormal stuff. Sometimes the magic is simply in two people discovering one another…

    • Robena says:

      Nan, you’ll have to let me know what you think. I’m not into the dark or the Sci Fi type of stories, but a soft paranormal or magic thread stimulates my thought processes.

  3. That sounds intriguing indeed Roben. It does not seem to be playing close to Torrance *sigh*. Maybe it will come to dvd quickly as it is far to character driven to be widely sought after? (Now isn’t that a sad statement?)

    I enjoyed Hope Springs as it too was character driven with wonderful actors and great subject matter. The couples therapy was in fact a bit too real at times to be considered a rom com. Personally I adore a movie that can entertain without special effects AND make you think for days to come. Too bad there is not more demand for these sort of films though we do get the occasional treat. 🙂

    • Robena Grant says:

      Yes, I’m not sure if it is in wide distribution yet, Christine. I recall they had staggered dates for release in certain areas. I thought of it as one of those summer sleeper movies. A delightful surprise.

  4. Janie Emaus says:

    I love magical realism and have it as a big part of my current Women’s Fiction novel. Hav you read anythin by Sarah Addison Allen? She’s fantastic with magical realism.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Janie, I’ve enjoyed many of SAA’s novels. This weekend I finished Barbara Freethy’s novel, Love Will Find a Way. I adored it and it had magical realism.

      My contemporary which is currently being looked at (fingers crossed) has an MR thread and I loved writing it.

  5. I’m going to have to put the Freethy novel in my tbr pile. I just finished Dream Lake which is Kleypas latest in the series about Friday Harbor. All of the series has magical realism and they are sooo good.
    I second the SAA lovers! Wonder when she’ll have something new out?
    I went to put Ruby Sparks in my netflix que and it’s already there, lol.

  6. Robena Grant says:

    Hi Judy,
    I forgot about Kleypas. Thanks for that reminder. I think you had mentioned or reviewed one of her books on your site. Must go over and take another look because the last couple of weeks/months have been so nutsy I’m not sure what I read or where. : ) I think you’ll like Freethy’s novel. Good for you on already ordering Ruby sparks. Let me know what you think. : )

  7. Robena Grant says:

    Judy, just in case you re-visit, I purchased Dream Lake last night and am halfway through. I LOVE IT! Thanks so much. Will try to get over to your blog later. ; )