I once worked in an advertising agency with a copywriter who thought he was Hemingway, an art director who mistook himself for Michelangelo, an account manager who through he was Richard Branson, a studio artist who believed he was God's gift to women, and a Managing Director who, for some reason never fully explained, thought he should've been one of the Great Chefs of Europe with a string of restaurants and his own personalised line of gourmet sauces.
Watching a recent episode of TV's 'Mad Men,' I was reminded of those ad agency guys. They were a bunch of weirdos, but the fact is they were an extremely interesting bunch of weirdos.
That's one of the elements that makes great fiction - great characters.
Doesn't matter at all if some of them are complete oddballs. Adds interest. And, after all, we all have our own peculiar quirks anyway. Don't we?
One of the most popular characters on British TV (and worldwide) is the last of the Gallifreyan Time Lords, a witty, wily, nerdy, heroic, tragic, moody, brilliant, slightly unhinged alien who travels the universe (but mostly London and Cardiff) in a time/space machine that looks like a 1960's police phone box on the outside (for the uninitiated, it's bigger on the inside.)
At the time of this post, eleven different actors have portrayed this character in the tv series (he regenerates on a regular basis, Time Lords do that) and there's no doubt the longest-running s/f tv series, 'DrWho,' owes much to its weird but wonderful main character (whoever he happens to be at the time.)
Dickens' classic novels boast an unforgettable cavalcade of lovable, detestable, eccentric characters who have captured the imagination of one generation after another: sneaky, grubby scoundrel The Artful Dodger; the cunning old fox, Fagin; resentful, manipulative ice queen Miss Haversham; the upright Mr. Pickwick; the everyman David Copperfield. The list goes on and Dickens' insights, delivered through his characters, provide us with a timeless snapshot of Victorian-era English society.
Greedy, irritable Ebenezer Scrooge, who saw no good in anything, had such an impact that his name has become identified with the word, "miserly," and is recognised as such in dictionaries.
That's the ultimate aim of all of us who craft fiction - characters so strong, so believable, that they take on a life of their very own.
The world's greatest tales wouldn't have had the impact they had, without the creation of such characters as Atticus Finch, Scarlett O'Hara, Sherlock Holmes, Jay Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, Captain Ahab, Jane Eyre, Gordon Gekko, Hercule Poirot, Norman Bates, Bill Sykes, Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron...
We all love great heroes and great villains. But when ordinary people are thrust into extraordinary circumstances, we see the makings of heroism and of evil, we witness close-hand the psychology of what makes us who we are, and it's impossible not to be drawn in and follow the story.
As for those ad agency weirdos with their petty obsessions and their delusions of grandeur, their loves and their "pet' hates, their egos and their spin...maybe they weren't so weird after all.
Maybe they're kind of "normal."
Either way, one thing's for sure, they're so vain they probably think this blog is about them...