Posted by: thewoobdog | March 16, 2007

So, just yesterday I was remarking on fictional characters, and how differently we would perceive their quirks and mannerisms in real life as opposed to how we perceive them when immersing ourselves in their fictional stories.  It never entered my mind that there is another point of view, as well – the author who created said fictional character!  Well, what should I happen upon than the following ever so timely and apropos little bit of dialogue in the book I am currently reading (see above).  An author (Ariadne Oliver – fictional) in the book is being asked why her main character (Sven Hjerson) is the way he is:

“‘How do I know?’ said Mrs. Oliver crossly.  ‘How do I know why I ever thought of the revolting man?  I must have been mad!  Why a Finn when I know nothing about Finland?  Why a vegetarian?  Why all the idiotic mannerisms he’s got?  These things just happen.  You try something – and people seem to like it – and then you go on – and before you know where you are, you’ve got someone like that maddening Sven Hjerson tied to you for life.  And people even write and say how fond you must be of him.  Fond of him?  If I met that bony gangling vegetable eating Finn in real life, I’d do a better murder than any I’ve ever invented.'”

I think this is hysterical – I mean, really, as an author you WOULD get tired of writing the same silly bits about the character’s personality and mannerisms, wouldn’t you?  And you’d be bound to come to a point (repeatedly, I’d say) where you’d think to yourself that you could have done this bit better or changed that there, but of course you can’t because you’re already locked into those particulars and your readers have fits and send you nasty correspondence if you go and capriciously start fiddling around and changing such constants…   I know I notice irregularities in books and it is profoundly irritating as a reader to have the believability of a given story line messed with in that way.  Yes, said story lines are usually, especially in sci-fi/fantasy, not remotely approaching true believability, but you know exactly what I mean – here is the world of the book, just so, and here are the things that should be in that world and the events that have happened, in just this order, and when you start messing with that all of a sudden you’re yanked out of that world that a moment before you had been completely immersed in (my sister calls it SIM – ‘story immersion mode’), and it’s driven home to you rudely and quite abruptly that it’s all just a story and you’re just, simply and prosaically, reading words on a page…


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