Wednesday, October 26, 2005

108. my characters

Yeah, I'm still grooving about the new novel idea. And then this morning, I figured out what kind of characters I want to populate my fictional world with. I call them "people on the rise and fall of the bell curve."

The bell curve is a statistical representation that appears over and over again in various social groupings (my definition, you like?). Think of a classroom. For any given test or assignment, there will probably be a small number of people who fail, a small number of people who ace out, and a bunch of people in the middle who get a C+ or B-. If you plot these numbers on a graph, you'll end up with something that looks like a bell - low on the ends, big in the middle - thus the term, "bell curve."

Anyway, it's my contention that this bell curve can be found in all areas of life. I mean think about your workplace. There are probably a few people who are on the verge of getting fired and then there are a few who are on the verge of getting promoted, and then there are the average workers in the middle.

I don't know, it works for me.

So this morning I'm thinking about what kind of people I want to write about, and then it hits me. I want to write about characters located on the rise and fall of the bell curve. By this, I mean characters who are better than the worst but not good enough to be a part of the norm - this would be a character on the rise of the bell curve. A character on the fall of the bell curve would be one who is smarter than most but not smart enough to be considered one of the elites.

Think of the movie "Good Will Hunting." Remember that math teacher who was trying to encourage Will to make something of his math talent? There's a scene where Will is in this teacher's office and he shoves a sheet of paper full of arcane math insights in his face saying, "do you have any idea how easy this is for me?" Will then lights the sheet on fire (or maybe he throws it in a fireplace, I can't remember). The teacher, horrified, retrieves the burning piece of paper, stamps out the flame and you can see the moment when he realizes what a fool Will has made of him.

This teacher is on the fall of the bell curve. He does math at a much higher level than most people, but he's not one of the elites.

I'm thinking this is a frustrating, humbling place to be. To go far but to know that the end will forever be out of reach. Or on the rise of the bell curve - to strive towards normalcy but to fall short for whatever reason.

I don't know, it's hard to find examples because they kind of fall between the cracks of character choices. And this is kind of a conceptual distinction of mine. I have a pretty good idea of what I mean, but I'm not sure exactly how to put it into words. Maybe it'll be clearer once the novel is done.

Well, this is me brainstorming about my book.

Welcome to my world.

1 comment:

Davey Velociraptor said...

Asian-Americans are notorious for destroying bell curves for everyone else (1)

(1) "Reflections on attending James Campbell High School 1995-1999" D.Guba, blogger publishing