On Characters in Fiction
March 18, 2008
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Via Nancy Nall:
“My experience with fiction is very limited — one screenplay, some abortive stories here and there — but the wonderful thing about it is, it’s a conjurer’s trick. You create your characters out of clay, breathe over them and make them live, and then they turn around, kick you in the kneecap, and start doing what they want. You can try to stop them, but doing so will retard your story. Your responsibility, as a writer, is to tell their story, and they will tell you what it is. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it; it’s the closest your average modern person will ever get to voodoo possession.”
Speaking just for myself, this is one of the things that keeps me writing fiction, that makes me cranky when I’m not writing, that gives me a rush when I complete a story. It’s that act of creation, of bringing characters to life and watching them grow, that odd feeling that they are almost independent of you (there’s a post coming in the future about the concept that writers “channel” their stories rather than creating them, the subject of a discussion with the award-nominated Ryan Campbell this weekend), watching them have triumphs and failures, loves and losses, lessons learned and lessons ignored. It’s why, even though “Moby Dick” is a huge, ponderous tome that most people haven’t gotten through, or have forgotten large chunks of it if they have, its beginning is one of the most famous in literature, because it introduces a character and a mystery and the tone of the novel all in three words.
And if you don’t know them, go look them up. :)