Wednesday, March 18, 2009
What is Charisma?
Although difficult or even impossible to define accurately (due to an abundance of wildly diverse criteria in regard to the trait), charisma is often used to describe an elusive, even undefinable personality trait that often includes the seemingly 'supernatural' or uncanny ability to lead, charm, persuade, inspire, and/or influence people. It refers especially to a quality in certain people who easily draw the attention and admiration (or even hatred if the application of such charisma is perceived to be negative) of others due to a 'magnetic' quality of personality and/or appearance...
Despite the strong emotions they so often induce in others, charismatic individuals generally project unusual calmness, confidence, assertiveness, dominance, authenticity, and focus, and almost always possess superb communication and/or oratorical skills.
This subject has been on my mind as you may already know if you've read my personal blog. How do you define charisma? How do you make your characters charismatic? Is it an acquired trait or is it just there? Do we love and adore characters who don't have it? Or is it a necessity in literature?
Last night I was watching American Idol and Adam Lambert sang a remake of Johnny Cash's, "Ring of Fire." It was very weird, but incredible at the same time, and I thought to myself, there is somebody with charisma. Oodles and oodles of it. The judges were so mixed in their opinions, but I had to laugh when Kara said, "It was strange and left me confused and happy." I thought to myself, ditto. It would have been incredible strange if anyone else had performed it, but because it was Adam it was awesome!
I think it's that way in writing sometimes. The truly charismatic characters can get away with murder (literally), and yet we still find ourselves drawn to them. One character can say something outrageous and conceited and we love him, while a different character could say the exact same thing and we would think he was a slime ball. Charisma is just one more subjective, elusive issue we deal with as writers and sometimes we write our characters with it and sometimes no matter how hard we try it evades us.