As a writer, the Aurelia experience has given me some new insights into writing which will benefit me in days to come. When the time presents itself, I will finally commit words to my long-overdue and heavily-researched first attempt at a novel.
I have learned that sometimes, the best of characters aren’t great and powerful heroes of renown but the common person who rises to the occasion in the struggle for survival. We all know how a lot fantasy is driven by these great epic adventures, but I think what helps make it a story worth reading is not this person who can defeat armies with a flick of a wrist or slay dragons like strolling through a park on a Sunday afternoon.
No, truthfully, we long for those common every day people who stand with the world against them and reach harrowing low points only to pick themselves up and prevail. These people are us. It gives the reader hope that even they, the common person can be something of greatness with perseverance and willpower.
In Aurelia, I watched a few characters have what we call the “god complex.” They fell short on their storylines. They’ve had a few interactions here and there with other performers, but the overall story fell flat and some of us breathed the sigh of relief when it was over. Our favorite characters were those of ordinary means, who for whatever reason rose to the occasion to do something out of the ordinary.
I have also come to realize that sometimes, life’s stupid mistakes, albeit fatal mistakes, often make for an enjoyable twist in a story. It’s nice to see our favorite characters survive great peril, but something about making it true to life makes a story resonate. For example, I played a character named Graccus who was a powerful Inquisitor for the Serpent’s Temple, tasked with tracking down heretics. Well, a “hot lead” led him to find another character who was drowning, and he offered to save that drowning man. But in the process, Graccus lost his footing and, while wearing heavy armor, ended up drowning. Harsh way to go, I’ll admit, but at the same time, very humorous and in its own way realistic in that sometimes stupid mistakes can be fatal.
Lastly, post-Aurelia, as I writer I have considered using a medium in which I could allow others to spin part of the story to make the randomness of life ring loudly in the story. It’s good to know small details of the character and to fall in love with each one of them. In this manner, the story takes on a life of its own and really pulls the reader in.
With the final curtain closing, I have to say, I’ll miss you, Aurelia.
I have learned a lot from this project. While there was a lot to take in, what advice I could offer to others planning a similar project is pretty straight forward.
First and foremost is stay flexible. The nature of this type of media makes being rigid more of an obstacle than a boon. Rigidity stifles the creative process in this medium because, as great as we’d like to think we are and how capable we are at covering all our bases, often times, another perspective can breathe fresh air into something that runs the risk of growing stale if we remain rigid. As we tried to maintain a modicum of realism, flexibility is much of how life is in that as much as we plan for things, sometimes it just doesn’t turn out how we expected.
Secondly, remember this is only your imagination. There is no need to get too attached to your imaginary persona and realize when someone slights your characters or NPCs it’s not a slight against you. This ties into the first point in that just because they don’t go along with what you laid out as a plot doesn’t mean they don’t respect you. Perhaps they simply see an opportunity to expand their storyline in the overall story arc.
Third, expect friction. With as many people as there are in the world, it is impossible to have all personalities of actors mesh together. Some may fall into the category of “Mary Sue” where they are simply good at everything and some even border on what is known as “godmodding,” which is playing a character with super powers who, for whatever reason, cannot be touched or hurt by others. Of course, there are many who simply go with the flow but for those who fall into the latter two cases, this leads to my fourth pointer.
Establish precedence early and be sure to nip these things early. If you don’t, you can’t expect the individuals in question to change their roles without causing a lot of interruptions. Having said that, one should still stay more in the background instead of always in the forefront micromanaging the story. It takes away from the fun . . . which leads to my final point of advice.
Have fun. Sure things are crazy and out of hand, but in all due honesty, if they aren’t dominating the story, who cares? Just have fun and let the story go where it may. It may prove to be the most interesting story of all.
Kelly Cook, a long-time live action role player and open-air actor, will be sharing tips throughout the summer as our neighborhood actor coach. In anticipation of tomorrow’s launch, get to know Kelly in this brief video:
This week we shot our first interview videos for Aurelia: Edge of Darkness. While we have a few kinks to iron out (figuratively and literally!), we learned a lot and captured some great content. Here’s a peek behind the scenes of our fantastic, mid-process mess as character coach Kelly Cook shares tips for a great acting experience. Photo by Peter Henckel.