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.
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.