Memorable character tags from A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol is one of the most endearing, enduring redemption stories ever told. Written by Charles Dickens and first published in 1843, it’s now 173 years old and is still entertaining – and teaching us. It reminds us of the power and joy of redemption, and it’s also a great example of a fictional character’s arc—and a clear example of character tags.
I attended a musical version of A Christmas Carol last week at The Stage in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. I’ve seen it several times on stage. I proudly own the Mickey Mouse and Muppets versions, the Alastair Sim version, and most especially the George C. Scott version, lush with its scenes and of course the brilliance of George C. Scott.
The version I saw this year is a relatively new adaptation by Richard Hellesen. Those attending can identify the differences quickly. In the beginning scene, the actors appear first as narrators, then step into scene and assume their characters roles. Scrooge is no less miserable than in the older versions, but in the Hellesen version, he’s comedic and includes the children in the fun. The ghostly apparitions are still there, but even in his fear, Scrooge pokes fun into the dialogue.
We want our characters to be memorable. There are several ways to accomplish that—in-depth character studies, psychological analyses, applying enneagrams and such—to be sure our characters are interesting and multi-dimensional.
A Christmas Carol makes full use of physical tags. In written form, the story comes alive with images that help the reader remember the characters. Dickens wrote them so well that, even if you’re given nosebleed theater seats, you can still recognize the characters as they come on stage.
Character tags from A Christmas Carol
Scrooge’s stovepipe hat
His long black coat
Tiny Tim’s crutch
Bob Cratchett’s scarf
Cratchett’s wife’s bonnet
Mrs. Fezziwig’s outlandish party hat
“God bless us, every one.”
The actors have readily identifiable voices, as well, using tone, vocabulary and pace to differentiate one from the other.
In addition to what one can visualize, tags identify characters through sound – a gruff policeman, a nasal-voiced girlfriend, a foreign spy with a heavy accent. One who stutters.
I often write down “EYE PATCH:” and list potential character tags early in my plotting. A character can wear so much perfume that people tear up and sneeze when she gets on the elevator. Another character can stink so much that people can smell him before they see him. A female character can have silky red hair that reaches her waist. An aging brunette can have a perky bob and whenever she flips her hair, her neck cracks. The possibilities are endless. Have fun with your writing, and ...
Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Holidays!
And God bless us, every one.
PS: The DCPA presentation of A Christmas Carol plays through Dec. 24.
A final note on Hellesen (replace “theatre” and “Play” with “novel.”)
When an interviewer asked what kind of theatre excites him, Hellesen replied, “…given the abundance of falsity in our world, I simply want to witness engrossing moments of recognizable human truth, things I knew were true but forgot until the play reminded me--and if possible to be allowed to feel genuine emotion in doing so.”
For a holiday treat to yourself, you can read Hellesen’s interview at http://aszym.blogspot.com/2013/06/i-interview-playwrights-part-588.html