Saturday, May 28, 2011

What's Your Status?

No, not the one-liner you posted on Facebook.

Your status is your dominance or submissiveness in relation to, well, pretty much everything. Apparently this is a well-known concept in acting. I had never heard it articulated quite that way until last week. Steven James (love him) wrote an article in the latest Writer's Digest about status. In it, he shows the ways a character's status can flow and change, adding depth to the character and making him more believable.

James points out that heroes should be high status, but they also should have some vulnerabilities. Nobody's perfect, and no one likes a character who seems to be perfect. Connections and interactions with other characters will raise or lower his status throughout the work.

Status is a great tool for revision.

Consider:
1. Tessa's eyes filled with tears. "Please, Jolie. Please help me."
2. Tessa refused to let her tears fall. "You won't help me? Fine."

In the first, Tessa is begging, needy, and brought to tears. She obviously is low status, submissive to Jolie. In the second, Tessa shows self-control, refuses to weep, and accepts that she's not getting help. She'll have to rely on herself. If Tessa is my MC, I'll choose the second version of this scene. I want her to have high status. Even if whatever she's reacting to in the scene is her weakness, I still don't want her to beg. Lower status is fine, begging is not.

What do you think? Had you heard of status before? Do you consider your characters' status when you're writing?