The Fully Realized, Completely
Materialized Character (steps onto the stage)
Robert W. Walker
You hit on an idea, and it surrounds a character, right? Something in his swagger, his manner, his appearance, his carriage, his stage presence…or something in the way she talks or walks or balks—something undeniable in the sense she will not be denied as the one character that insists on being fleshed out, fully realized, completely materialized. The one of many “character” voices that claims the LEAD role in your next story or novel. She steps up and onto the stage of your mind—right smack dab at the frontal lobe, and when you either wish her away or try to put her off, or go off and do various chores to put her out of your mind, because you had other plans for the story or a life to live, she is still there, lurking—if not in the frontal lobe, someplace else in there, and you know it because she isn’t going anywhere until you pay her the attention she demands and claims of you. She may flatter you, call you her creator, her God, or she may bedevil you and claim she is your creator, your God. Either way, she or he or it has a stranglehold on you.
I know it sounds weird, especially to those who do not write or create, but it’s oh so true. When you listen to a psychic like John Edwards speak of those “spirits” who are all rushing in at him at once, all of them demanding attention and shouting, “Take me! Take me!” –you understand where he’s coming from even if you don’t understand where the “spirits” are coming from. Writing can and does often feel like channeling spectral voices out of the past or out of the psyche or out of the collective psyche, but that’s too deep to go into here. Still, it is a lot like that when an author is fishing around for a new lead character to cast in his next novel or story—that the casting couch can get extremely crowded. But always one voice, one powerful character drowns out the rest for the duration of a story or in the case of The Root Mon from the Root Heaven Store – a poem crafted around such a truly noisy, irritating character that not only demanded to be heard but demanded it at the oddest of times and over a long, long period of time that I could NOT shut him out try as I may….
In fact, I originally wrote the poem long years ago just in order to get The Root Mon out of my line of vision and out of my head, so that I could go on and live a normal writer-ly life, if there is such an existence. But before I banished him, it would take months and many return engagements, and just recently he mysteriously returned. I came across the poem, made the mistake of picking it up and reading it, enjoyed it, and wham, he was back! Kind of smacked me on the back of the head The Root Mon did. He had yet two more stanzas to add to the piece! After all these years! He’d been lurking in the dark recesses of my mind all this time, awaiting the day I should revisit him, and bada-bing, he jumps out at me and claims my frontal lobe again; abducts me and forces me to come to terms with two stanzas that needed adding! Confides that I got it wrong the first time around. All this and I have not cracked up in any meaningful F. Scott Fitzgerald fashion as yet.
Now mind you, when he first showed up, it was just to do three stanzas and boom, I was to be done with The Root Mon and poetry! How very often had I been warned off the writing of poetry as anything I attempted stank to high heaven. Warned off it as a tone deaf person is warned to stay away from any attempt at music or song. So after those few stanzas, I felt confident that The Root Mon’s visit had come to an end; that bye-bye meant bye-bye. That I could write something easy now—like a mystery novel. The next in my Instinct Series. Besides, I wasn’t terribly impressed by The Root Mon’s poem anyway. But like a horror film, I found him in my head again while I was trying to sleep, while I was trying to shower, and while trying to dress! At every turn of my day, this crude guy demanded another stanza. Done—go away now! Again done with The Root Mon, I went out to hoe the garden out back and wham, he came again with yet another stanza demanding I jot it down. Standing in the check out line at Wal-mart, bam, another stanza. Just demanding as hell.
This went on. At breakfast another stanza, at lunch, at school, at the dental office, in the library while researching anything else! At the beach…in the ocean…no pen at hand! Again and again he came back at me, always demanding: “Com’on, mon…you gotta do dis one. Dis gotta be in de Root Mon’s poem!”
My wife was beginning to become suspicious. To be sure, I was distracted—living with this wild and crazy Root Mon in my head. He was telling me that I hadn’t “fully realized” who he was or just how much “ju-ju” he possessed, and that he wanted to “completely materialize” on the page. So I had to put up with him until he was, to me, fully fleshed him out (on the page). That kind of magic meant another stanza, and another, and even now years later, he has COME BACK! Scary, yes. Exhausting yes, but in the end, I’m proud to present The Root Mon of Root Heaven below and you tell me if “living with your characters” for a time does or does not pay off. I think this is a cogent and quick example of the “fully realized, completely materialized” character—as in a nutshell. Here is the Root Mon in his own words and on the stage that he built:
The ROOT HEAVEN Store
by Anton “Mystic Ruler” Dupree a.k.a The Root Mon, a.k.a. Robert W.
You carrying a curse?
We got bugs, scrubs, and herbs,
Toad sweat’ll get you up’n’fit
We got fat slugs
Go-head, make my day
So get whatever you need—
Get stalks and stone,
Take dat magic tobacco,
Fix you up wid a hex sign,
Swallow de snail slime!
Guard your fleas
Forget dat ol’ 7-Eleven!
THAT’S my story and I’m sticking to it. Happy Writing and Reading
About the Writer:
Robert W. Walker is a graduate of Chicago's
Wells High School, Northwestern University, and the NU's Graduate
Masters in English Education program. Rob has taught writing in all its
permutations from composition and developmental to a study of the
literary masters to creative and advanced creative writing. His novels
include City of the Absent, Shadows in the White City,
PSI Blue, and the Edge series.
Look for his new book: Dead On in hardcover and
on Kindle e-books alongside Children of Salem, an e-book original.
Rob lives with his wife, Miranda, and their four children in West Virginia.
About the Writer:
Robert W. Walker is a graduate of Chicago's Wells High School, Northwestern University, and the NU's Graduate Masters in English Education program. Rob has taught writing in all its permutations from composition and developmental to a study of the literary masters to creative and advanced creative writing. His novels include City of the Absent, Shadows in the White City, PSI Blue, and the Edge series.
Look for his new book: Dead On in hardcover and on Kindle e-books alongside Children of Salem, an e-book original. Rob lives with his wife, Miranda, and their four children in West Virginia.