Vincent D'Onofrio, Character Inspiration and Click Bait Headlines


A slightly prickly post illustrated by very prickly thistles! 

Many writers, me included, will often find themselves imagining actors playing certain parts in the fiction we're creating. Mostly, this is without any expectation or even remote hope that it will actually happen - especially since we often look at previous performances of people who, however talented, would be far too old for the role. Although if you tell me that the author of the Bridges of Madison County didn't imagine Eastwood in the role, I won't believe you! 

It's a more nebulous idea than that. Sometimes a character arrives whole, and you, the writer, can see them and know exactly what they say and how they say it. William, the narrator in my novel The Physic Garden, was exactly like this. He was who he was, he spoke to me and there was nothing I could do about it. But sometimes, it can be difficult to 'see' them, as you're embarking on a project. And sometimes we watch an actor in performance and think - there's something about the performance that I can use.  

It's no secret among my close friends that I'm pretty obsessed with Law and Order Criminal Intent, but only those episodes with Goren and Eames. I'm intrigued by the character of Bobby Goren, and yes, I know he's written that way, but a fine actor can bring so much to a role. As a playwright, I know that an actor and director can show you elements of your writing that you hardly even knew were there. Between writer and actor, this is one intriguing character.

I'm in the middle of a huge and complicated piece of non-fiction about my Polish family background, but - as so often happens - there's a new novel simmering away at the back of my mind, and in that novel is a character who is walking around saying 'here I am, look at me' relentlessly. There are certainly elements of this character that owe something to D'Onofrio's fine realisation of Goren in Criminal Intent, his vast intelligence, his solitary nature, his vulnerability  - albeit in a completely different way, in a completely different setting, in a completely different country. 

This isn't 'copying' or fan fiction. It's using a past performance of someone you admire as a springboard into creating another character, teasing out their unique story, using those insights in the creation of something new and different. 

I think a lot of us do this. We'll see what emerges.

Finally, somewhere online is an idiotic video titled the Life and Sad Ending of Vincent D'Onofrio. And no, I won't be linking to it, because it's clickbait, pure and simple. He's not dead. He's still a very fine actor indeed. He's just - you know - older. Which is no sin. I find these celebrity posts and videos so strange. As though growing older and wiser is somehow optional. 

I've news for you. We're all heading that way. You may be a few years behind - but it's coming. Nothing surer. 

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