Alan_Rickman
WikiCommons

The passing of Alan Rickman hit me as hard as the untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  I admired both actors and watched numerous movies solely to see their performances.  They were able to communicate an incredible emotional range with only the use of their facial muscles.  Each actor possessed a voice that could touch your soul.  Alan Rickman had the ability to play sarcasm to perfection.  Philip Seymour Hoffman became an incredible range of characters that could be soft or loud or crazy or fascinatingly boring.

This made me think about how I choose the people I admire.  Technical skill is a definite must.  Then I realized that both men played dramatic and comedic roles and allowed all of their performances to have a smattering of each.  They delved into the world of theater, teaching and performing, not just paying lip service.  Both men took risks with their roles, not settling on playing the same character over and over.

Philip_Seymour_Hoffman
WikiCommons
When I think about writers I admire, Eugene O’Neill and Virginia Woolf usually top the list.  Why?  Eugene O’Neill actually wrote a good amount of plays that I didn’t enjoy at all.  But enjoyment is not 100% what I’m after.  His plays ran the gambit of slice-of-life realism, expressionism, and experimental.  I admire Eugene O’Neill because he explored.  He wasn’t content to write the same play over and over again or stay safely tucked away in one genre.

Perhaps the exact same thing cannot be said for Virginia Woolf.  Would she have written science fiction?  I doubt it.  But she experimented with language, with POV, and with stream of consciousness.  Her works, though confusing at times, are consistently brilliant and bold.

When I admire someone, I don’t think I do it because they do one thing well.  I tend to admire people who step out of their comfort zone, people who risk failure to further their own understanding of their chosen art form.  I like risk takers who care more about doing what they like than doing what is comfortable.

I want to be the kind of writer that takes risks.  I don’t want to just be a brand.  I want to genre hop and play with the form of the novel.  I want to be bold.

14 thoughts

  1. A few days before David Bowie died, I was watching a documentary about him – and especially about Ziggy – and was struck by the way he took risks, was bold and jumped around genres of music – all the things you’ve just said about Rickman and Hoffman. I told the dog (because no one else was around) that I wanted to be like Bowie in literature. It seems you and I think a lot alike 🙂

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  2. Annalisa – I saw Bowie in concert when I was in high school. I had zero frame of reference for him but there is one moment between him and an audience member that sticks out as the coolest concert moment I’ve ever witnessed.

    C. Lee – Thank you!!! I have read three of Haddon’s books and really enjoyed all of them. Immensely. 🙂

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  3. It was hard watching the last couple Hunger Games movies because of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, and I can imagine how difficult it’ll be to watch anything with Alan Rickman, especially the Harry Potter movies, in the future. These actors were so talented and are missed.

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  4. By Grabthar’s hammer, by the sons of Morvan, you shall be avenged. I was very sad to hear about Alan Rickman. Galaxy Quest is one of my favorite movies and so is Sense & Sensibility. I wanted Colonel Brandon chasing me.

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  5. Your new site looks great, by the way! Also, I know what you mean about people who step out of their comfort zones. There are certain actors I admire who are excellent in both drama and comedy, and I’ve always admired the ways they apply their talents to both genres. And I do know of a few writers whose books I enjoy but who often seem to write the same kinds of things over and over again; for example, I used to really like Nicholas Sparks’ books, but the ones I read always had tear-jerker endings, which started to annoy me after a while (though I do think he’s a good writer). BTW, I had to put an inactive e-mail address below, because every time I put my real e-mail address on sites it ends up linking to my actual e-mail account for some reason.

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  6. I have a friend who is constantly experimenting with her writing, learning new things, etc. I admire her, and sometimes wish I could do what she does. I can experiment, but I will never think the way she thinks. I can enjoy observing, though. Alan Rickman was such a wonderful and varied actor. I tend to respect the “character actors” most. Those who take on all the different roles and make them their own. That’s skill.

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  7. Thought provoking stuff here. I’ve been sitting here for five minutes or so thinking about the pros and cons of risk taking for life in general. Risk takers have more adventure. Taking risks will eventually get you hurt pretty good. Taking risks means really living. You live outside your comfort zone long enough and is any place comfortable anymore? Even with writing taking risks is risky. Some will pay off while others won’t. A risk taker must not care too much what others think because “others” seem to be loud and vocal with their opinions. I think the thing I want most is balance. Take calculated risks. Only care “so much” what others think. Go after those adventures that will make me smile, but probably won’t get me shot.

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  8. Neurotic, sorry to hear about the link, not sure what’s going on there. I’ll have to check it out.

    Robin, I agree. I’m usually a calculated risk taker but even that has blown up in my face before, and also paid off huge. Nothing’s certain but it’s always good to stray at least slightly out of your comfort zone.

    Thanks for all your comments guys!

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