Characters Real and Imagined

Feb 28, 19:37 by Bluejack
Discussion of the real, the fantastic, or the Duke invited here.

(Jay Lake's article is here.)
Mar 8, 06:26 by Rosario Torres

interesting discussion. very often while reading, I find myself playing guesses about characters - is the author drawing from someone specific in his life, or doing a patchwork, or looking in the mirror? Or drawing from the collective unconscious?

where do writers find a balance? I´m reminded of some novels that have tried to deal with this question through the medium itself.

´Jack Maggs´, by Australian writer Peter Carey, is an interesting novel that teases Dickens (by way of his invented protagonist, Tobias Oates) about unabashedly picking out London personalities and using them in his fiction without permission. Tobias goes so far as using hypnosis on the subject of his fascination, a deported criminal returned from Australia called Jack Maggs. I recall a moment in the book where Maggs and Oates are traveling together in a train, and Oates begins to jot down notes about his subject excitedly. Maggs realizes he`s the subject, and fixes Oates with a scathing look that says everything: ¨Treat me like a human being, not as an ingredient in your next novel.¨

Besides telling a good story, ¨Jack Maggs¨ seems to probe the ethical limits of the writer in his pursuit of the character.

Another novel I was reading when I happened on your article - ¨Atonement¨, by Ian McEwan. The protagonist of the novel is Briony, a 12 year old girl who aspires to write romantic fantasy epics. She is so anxious to find parallels between her stories and the world around her, at a crucial moment she confuses the real with the imagined and, being the witness of a crime, accuses the innocent party of being guilty. (It´s hard to explain; the book is well worth reading) She spends the rest of her life atoning for an error in judgement. In later years, she succeeds as a fiction writer, but one who works fastidiously to transfer the details of reality into her fictional characters - her way of ¨crawling, on hands and knees, towards the truth.¨

in scifi, we´ve got a lot of lee way with our characters. It´s a safer environment, it seems, to stray from the real when it suits us and to make things up. Half the time they´re not even human :) But we still work interchangeably between the real world and the fantastic, in order to create characters which are believable to readers.

Sometimes, as jay says, the real is stranger than the imagined. politics sure seems to be going that way these days, doesn`t it?

Mar 16, 17:43 by Jay Lake
Politics, life, and people...all strange and stranger.

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