|This kitten would like|
Focus on Character Development: A View from Behind the Lens
by Helen Peppe
|This paw does not belong to a troll.|
This is the first paragraph of “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Anderson who embedded moral lessons in fairy tales and other short works, many of which do not end happily ever after. Anderson created his characters using the rules of polarity: good and evil, beautiful and ugly, greedy and generous. He recognized that people universally think in terms of opposites, that it pervades our physical environment: north and south, night and day, dark and light, hot and cold. Anderson kept his characters deceptively basic, a flat land of generic stereotype. There is the wicked witch and the beautiful princess, the conniving hag and unsuspecting king, and their differences create conflict. It’s as simple as yes and no, as right and wrong.
But it isn’t.
|....sometimes you don't!|
|Sometimes you feel like a nut....|
|"I spy with my beautiful green eye..."|
I am reminded of the simplification, the boring telling of character each time I donate my time and photography to a rescue organization. The first thing I do when I enter the cat room is read the short bios hanging on the cages or, in the case of a recent shelter, on a bulletin board in an area where the cats roam free. This is my preferred setting because I can sit on the floor and watch for the cats to reveal themselves from the climbing tree condos. I wait for their characters to unfold.
|What sort of soul do |
you imagine under
|This is a complex character, despite|
…for he had invented a mirror which had the strange power of being able to make anything good or beautiful that it reflected appear horrid… Hans Christian Anderson could easily have been writing about the power of the camera, which uses a mirror to reflect light that is life. Or, and this is what I believe, the mirror could be a metaphor for ourselves, of looking deeply into identity to our true character. “The Ugly Duckling” teaches us that a character who will engage the reader and turn the act of reading a book into a life changing moment might be beautiful and horrid, worthless and worthwhile. But he will never be one or the other.
|Helen Peppe and her photography |
assistant (and daughter!) Morgan.
Helen Peppe’s work has appeared in anthologies, print and digital magazines, including The Goodmen Project, Pop Fic Review, Practical Horseman, Equus, The Horse, Dog Fancy, Dog World, and Mused Literary Review. Her writing has won several literary awards, among them first place in the Word Worth Fiction and Essay Contest and The Starving Writer Contest. A chapter of her debut memoir Pigs Can’t Swim, “The American Eagle”, finaled for the 2011 Annie Dillard Creative Nonfiction Award. Helen has an M.F.A. in creative writing from Stonecoast, and she teaches writing by illustrating craft through photography. She is working on her second memoir, Naked, Finding my Feet, and her first YA novel about a young girl and her rescue horse: I Name you Rockstar. Helen lives in Maine with her husband, Eric, her children, her dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and her horse. Her web site is www.helenpeppe.com. Pigs Can’t Swim will launch officially in February 2014.