Luigi Pirandello explained the process by which the play Six Characters… developed as related to his learning to understand the creative process. The author’s imagination is something he does not control. Ideas enter the mind and then the author must figure out what to do with them. On one occasion, the characters who entered his consciousness refused to be manipulated by him. He began to realize that to some extent they existed as completely separate from him. The characters, as manifestations of ideas, will take on the form that they are supposed to take. Furthermore, they will interact with each other and shape the plot—to the extent that a play needs a plot—in ways that make sense to them, but not necessarily to the audience.
Pirandello’s approach was later considered revolutionary because he questioned what constituted comedy or tragedy from each and every character’s perspective. In any play, he asserted, all the characters consider themselves to be at the center of each play. They do not seem themselves as minor characters. “Raison d’etre” is French for “reason for being.”
Every creature born of the imagination, every being art creates, must have his own play, that is to say, a play of which he is the hero and for which he is the dominating character. That play is the raison d’etre of that particular character; it is his life process; it is necessary for his existence.
The characters also are not fixed in a particular existence that the author dictates. They will evolve, or become, their eventual full expression during the course of the play, not just as the author wrote it before it is performed. The characters are not totally controlled by the author because they are not totally aware of his existence. In a sense, Pirandello argues, the characters create the author as much as the other way around.
I did give them… the “impossible” situation, the dramatic situation, which consists of being turned down and in search of an author; but they cannot even suspect—since they already have a life of their own—that this has now become their real reason for being, and a sufficient cause for their existence.