When I was in theatre school, each time we took on a new part, we had a list of questions to answer to help us analyze and begin to embody our characters. Questions like:
- What is my educational background?
- How much money do I have?
- Who is my hero?
- What’s my favourite colour and why?
- If I were an animal, which one would I be?
- What’s my biggest pet peeve?
While I haven’t been on stage for a while, I am writing a play…in the middle of a pandemic. And even though I don’t want to accept the reality that family Christmas dinner will be done over Zoom, I can accept that I have been given a new set of questions to answer about my characters:
- Would they wear a mask? If so, what kind of mask – N95 or homemade?
- How many swab tests would they have gotten by now?
- Would they punch anyone at Costco for toilet paper?
- Would they host parties despite gathering restrictions?
- How many bottles of hand sanitizer would they have gone through?
- If they have kids, would they allow them to physically go to school or would they choose online?
- Would they have bought a puppy?
- Would they be first to line up for the vaccine?
Despite our current state of affairs and the overall unrest it has caused, as writers wanting to create characters that reflect our humanity, the answers to these questions can guide us.
All around us is conflict, paradox and controversy. The stuff of novels we can’t put down. So, while we wish this virus was Orwellian fiction, we might as well accept what gifts we can for the sake of our craft.