Wednesday, December 16, 2009


So, Morgan Freeman's voice... it is very good isn't it? We just saw Invictus. (And then we snuck into The Blind Side to complete our weepy athletic movie marathon). It is twenty-five dollars for two people to go to the movies here in LA, before they consume any candy so we feel it is right to dock them one movie.

My profoundly principled, very distinguished looking, silver haired father protests the extortionate prices at Foodland (our very literally titled Hawaiian grocery store) by shoplifting exactly three green chilies every time he goes in there. If questioned, my father would say "Yes, I have three chilies in my pocket. Your prices are absurd and so I am adjusting them. Please explain your rampant over-pricing."

Alternatively, if I were caught in a movie I did not pay for, I would turn bright red, flee and never return. Dicey stuff at your favorite movie theatre.

But Morgan Freeman's voice... it carries weight and a sort of gravelly vibrancy. He has gravitas. It is not so much what he says, but the restraint, timbre and pitch of how he says it. Last night we saw Hitchcock's Rebecca. Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter: gravitas. I am currently working out how to write gravitas. The trick lies somewhere in creating a character who says much less than he knows and thoroughly respects his weight in the world without arrogance. The "he" in that sentence is not sexist coincidentally--I went to Mount Holyoke and have been thoroughly schooled to read the "his" in "history" and the "men" in "women" but in this instance the character I am writing is male and I cannot bear over-scrutinized semantics.

On paper, the air has to shift imperceptibly when this character enters a room. Just as it does when a person of substance joins a breezy conversation. Suddenly, everyone thinks about what they say just a bit more carefully. Verbal sails get trimmed and arguments are more carefully plotted. But how to write that without over writing that? Gravitas, like mystique collapses if it is over-examined or over-explained.

I suppose gravitas would be to simply produce the stolen chilies and expect the store to explain themselves rather than vice-versa.


  1. For how to write gravitas, see anything by Sorkin, A.

  2. yes! bartlett! tons of gravitas! but much easier to pull off if martin sheen is speaking the lines! thanks nicky!

  3. the epitome of gravitas is an extremely short hairdo. if you give your character a duck hairdo, the reader will feel suddenly more analytical, more....aware. perhaps knocked slightly off-balance.

  4. yes. weighty stuff, the duck coiffure. x


Please feel free to leave a comment! I would love to hear from you!