I saw Inkheart last week and it really got my pondering juices flowing. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the latest in Brendan Fraser’s stream of young adult novel to movie adaptations. Not the best flick, but it had it’s moments. I loooved Paul Bettany as Dustfinger. As a movie, it falls short of really hitting the nail on the head for an adventure flick, but what I found the most intriguing about it was the concept of the “Silver Tongue”.
Silver Tongues are individuals who, by the act of reading aloud, can bring anything into existence. Now imagine that you are an author and you are suddenly confronted with your own characters, who are quite tormented and angry that you’ve put them in the situation that they are in (something which occurs in the movie).
What would your characters say to you if you met them face to face? What inspired you to make them the way they are? If your characters suddenly became real, how would they react to the ‘real’ world? It was interesting to see how villains in the Inkheart world adapted to use the technology of our world, which made their jobs of being thieves that much easier.
The whole concept got me to thinking about the relationship between an author and a character. Why do we make them? Why do we torture them?
Personally, I started creating characters as a young child in order to sleep at night. I always needed a good bedtime story to get to bed and I never grew out of that. If I’m not dreaming up a story before I’m sleeping, I can’t sleep at all. Every night, I imagine a scenario of some sort, my prince Ramah racing across a moonlit beach in his desert kingdom; Melakim hunting a dangerous adversary through a dark wood; Aurora diving off of a skyscraper in some elaborate aerial maneuver to penetrate a building’s security. There are all manner of stories and situations that end up fueling my art and writing at some point.
Where would the fun be if you didn’t put them in danger? Everyone needs a little tension, though I will admit being a bit of a sadist when it comes to torturing them. Aren’t we all?
Or maybe it’s just me…
For some reason, I actually used to worry about that kind of thing a lot. Eventually, I ended up making peace with most of my characters, and I think that if they were brought to life, most of them would be able to at least grudgingly let me live. XD;
Fantastic post Ang, so many intriguing questions to ponder. Yanking characters into the real world always brings to mind a line from Sin City, about Marv being born in the wrong century. Some people’s codes of honour, etc, are just meant for a certain time period.
I pondered your question of facing your characters on my drive home, and found myself considering two opposing issues. On the one hand, I think a character like Alkaia would have plenty to complain about in the torture-for-audience-entertainment category. At the same time, however, I don’t really think any of that is my fault. I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who hasn’t found their characters telling them what’s happening, or changing the plot on them. I don’t think I can say that I’m the one to stick Alkaia in bad situations. If I’m to blame for a particularly trying scene (the sort she’d leap out of the book and slap me for), that’s probably a good warning that I’m writing for my own indulgence, rather than writing what the story needs.
I could certainly see Radrik taking it up with me for sticking him with a slow-burning unrequited love … but I wasn’t the one who decided that! I was just writing away, thinking I knew what was going on, and he decided to inform me how he felt, through so many small yearnings.
You can blame the forging of a character, their formative years, the events beyond their control that shape them, upon the author, but I think once they take life and become part of the story, the rest is in their hands. Choosing to drop your protagonist in a slum or a country farmhouse makes a huge difference on their development, but after that, everything follows according to their personality.
That being said, I think Aurora would probably have a thing or three to say to you about her early years 😉
A few of my characters would LOVE to pound me flat if they ever got their hands of me. (Ironically, the ones who’ve gotten the worst end of it tend to be disinclined to revenge. And the worst that happened to Nathan wasn’t even my idea!)
I agree, tension is best for characters, even of generic, normal types at times, like schoolwork or romance. Of course, situations that’re a bit more exotic, such as rescuing your wife(Nathan), or hiding the fact you’re a shapeshifter(Richard and Melody) are also great fun. 🙂
Hi Angela, I just came over from Hayley Lavik’s blog. You did an excellent job on her banner!
I haven’t seen Inkheart, but I have read a book, apparently there is a series, written my Kasey Michaels, where two characters come to life. The heroine, Maggie Kelly, is a historical mystery writer whose Regency detective and sidekick have come to life in her Manhattan apartment. Murder and mayhem follow them around. I would consider these books to be romantic comedy time travels if you’re interested.
Until I’d read your blog, I hadn’t really thought about my characters coming to life. They’d probably think my life was boring compared to theirs, and they’d probably be correct. I imagine they’d have a thing to two to say to me, but like Hayley said, they write their own stories. I’m just the typist.