Wednesday, September 10, 2014

RAY DONOVAN: Orchestrating Character

Robert Ellis
There's writing, and then there's writing. I happen to like both, for very different reasons. Some people play at it within a formula and do it really well. Others work a story without a map, and push it over the edge. RAY DONOVAN, a series on Showtime, begins at the edge. Tough guys are so rare these days, so difficult to pull off and still seem real. And Liev Schreiber, the actor who plays Ray Donovan, performs masterfully and has just the right touch.

Every time I ask someone if they're watching RAY DONOVAN, they light up and usually gasp out an OMG! The show is in its second season, and if you subscribe to Showtime, episodes from both seasons are available on-demand.

Liev Schreiber as Ray Donovan
For me, I haven't seen a film or read a book that lit me up like RAY DONOVAN in a real long time. But what I've noticed most about the series are the characters. Every single character in this series is horrific in some fundamental way. Whether it's Ray's bitchy wife cheating on him, Ray cheating on his wife, his father's willingness to betray him over and over again, the idiocy of the two Beverly Hills attorneys Ray fixes things for, the idiocy, but also the dignity of his brothers, his daughter, an old girlfriend--the plot fascinates me because the mix of different characters fascinate me. Their wants and needs clash without effort.

And this is something I think about when beginning a new story. Orchestrating the novel with characters who are different enough that it feels like a real world. A complete world. Rich and poor, big and small, smart and stupid, and most important of all, that one character whom I just know will turn the world of my characters (my plot) into chaos. Cutting my characters loose, letting the insanity take hold, and then trusting them to work things out -- for me, that's the essence of storytelling.

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