Thursday, December 2, 2010

Acting Out of Character

There is an episode in the original animated series of Avatar: The Last Airbender (which those of you who have followed our conversations on the blog know that we ninja Inkers LOVE)in which Katara, the rock and nurturing influence in the group, does something seemingly out of character. She hunts down and attacks an old man unprovoked. If there were no reasons given it would have been the worse episode ever. But...because we were with her on the journey to the attack, it made her seem more real, not less. She attacked him because she believed him to be her mother's murderer. Then she hunts and attacks the actual murderer and discovers something essential about herself. Making all of us feel like we know Katara better.

I think sometimes that I get so scared about my characters acting "out of character" that I forget that we all do it. Have you ever seen a normally quiet and happy mom in the store, after a sleepless night, with screaming sick children when the clerk says that they have sold out of the medicine she needed? Can you believe she would rant so badly that security escorted her out of the building?

Or let's take Scrooge as a great example of someone acting completely out of character. If you knew the first 1/4 of the story and then flipped to the end you might throw the book against the wall saying, "Stupid author set up a terrifically wicked old man and then made him all mushy in the end." Or you could take the terrifying journey with Scrooge through the ghostly night to face his own mortality and see that he has always been motivated by fear and that when his fear changed from being of the world and became about leaving the world behind his behavior changed dramatically.

I recently had an episode of acting completely out of character and against my own better judgement. I pouted. Yep and though I disdain pouting in others and especially my children and have been known to laugh out loud at it, circumstances arose in which I found myself consciously pouting. Luckily a good friend came to my rescue and laughed at my self induced misery until I laughed at it too.

Human flaws and uncharacteristic behavior can make our characters REAL. The trick is defining the situations that would cause them to behave out of character.

When have you acted out of character? What drove you to it?


  1. Just between you and me (and our 42 followers), I have a tendency to act a little out of character when it gets late at night or when I'm overly tired. Giddiness runs free and I'm a lot more likely to start revealing the locations of my buried bodies.

  2. Similar to Debbie, if I don't get enough sleep, my normally calm and good-natured manner can take a very dramatic turn.

  3. Since I am always all over the radar and no one ever knows what to expect of me, I am never out of character because I have no defined character traits. :)

  4. Nice cover up, DJ. :)

    Sleep deprivation is always a good test, but I do like the other examples you gave, Donna. Especially Scrooge. I mean, who really wants to be forced to relive horrible, seemingly unfixable mistakes from your past?

    I don't really know how to answer your question because I see all of the reasons why I act the way I do. From an outsider's perspective, it might be a different story. :)