"A story always involves, in a dramatic way, the mystery of personality. I lent some stories to a country lady who lives down the road from me, and when she returned them, she said, “Well, them stories just gone and shown you how some folks would do,” and I thought to myself that that was right; when you write stories, you have to be content to start exactly there - showing how some specific folks will do, will do in spite of everything."
-- Flannery O'Connor
Ms. O'Connor and her neighbor make a great point, don't they? A truly wonderful story isn't so much about cleverly-constructed subtext, allusion, or the "Emperor's New Prose." It's about characters so real and recognizable their every action rings true, characters that help us draw parallels from our own lives and recognize the buried truths there.
I thought of these words after watching No Country for Old Men late last night. Fabulous movie (based on Cormac McCarthy's much-lauded novel) and *wonderfully* acted, set in the same starkly-beautiful West Texas locales where my last couple of novels have taken place. But for me, the minor characters were what really made it, the humble clerks, the mother-in-law, the ill-fated Good Samaritan. Folks so "regular" they sparked immediate recognition, even laughter, so interestingly unique, in their ordinary way, that they jumped (and occasional splattered - it's a violent story) off the screen.
The movie was not only great, it was an excellent reminder. It's all about the characters. And how some folks would do.