It is good to remember that all Characters should possess some level of love. An easy way to identify this is to ask; who or what would they sacrifice it all for? The landmark movie Citizen Kane had strong Character-love connections. I believe this empathetic connection to the audience is one of the reasons that keeps the film on most critics’ top ten list. The love connection that impressed me most in the story, was an older man who recollects a girl he saw on the ferry once in his youth. He then admits there isn’t a month that goes by that he doesn’t think of her, he doesn’t even know her name, but he has carried her with him through the years, every month!
Kane’s love, his clumsy attempts at buying love, forcing it to be a part of his life, are the tragic aspects of his love/empathy connection. These serve as setups to his ultimate love mystery, the last word he uttered on this mortal coil, “Rosebud.”
All these years later, since my first view of “Citizen Kane” on the Million Dollar Movie on Channel 9 in the ’60s, the scene in that movie that hardly a month goes by that I don’t think of is that old man, carrying that girl into old age. Here is that little sequence, brilliantly written by H.J. Mankowitz and Orson Welles: Bernstein is the seasoned citizen, Kane’s chairman of the board being interviewed by Thompson, the young reporter who is trying to unravel the Rosebud mystery.
I have been in the company of some of the most famous and Highest Net Worth Individuals on the planet. In unguarded moments of candor, they eventually get down to what they really want, (when they seem to have everything a human could ever want) namely, to be in love with someone. Sometimes it’s generic; just the need to feel that way about someone, sometimes it was specific, a person.
At moments like that, you just know that somewhere in the world, a million times over, some hard-working couple, struggling to make ends meet, facing the vicissitudes of life are holding hands and each other in their hearts. Each feeling like they are the lucky one in the relationship to have found the other.
In my new book, I pay homage to this notion in a subplot where the sexiest actress in Hollywood, the one with the sex tape released on the internet, and two academy award nominations, tries but fails to seduce the husband of my pregnant protagonist. In that unusual, for her, outcome, (she always gets any man she chooses to act stupidly;) she has a life-changing event. One that she admits, “we only play at in movies” but she never believed actually existed; a love and commitment to one another which survives above all else.
That’s worth all the money in the world, and is invaluable when building your Character’s empathetic attraction. In my online novel writing course, From Writer to Author, I teach a lesson on building empathetic characters. I’m proud to announce that my course is now open for enrollment! Find out more at academyofcreativeskills.com or by clicking on the image below!
Editor’s Note: The actor Everett Stone, who played Bernstein, didn’t let the typo in the script pastrol stop him from saying, parasol. Proving that empathy is often more important than grammar. This is a good “first draft” lesson to would-be authors everywhere.