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Saturday, February 6, 2010

People Are Funny

I must be improving. I want to write about writing again, instead of day-to-day activities. We'll see how far I get into the sticky subject I've chosen for the day.

Jeff the Publisher says (this will be my interpretation, not a direct quote) that story people are fake people who act real.

I agree with that, for the most part. This applies to story people in fictional stories, naturally.
Writers create characters who seem real. How does a writer create a character who seems real but isn't?

I'm not sure I know. Most writing books recommend studying real people. I suppose I've done that. Some recommend using your own experiences to create characters. I suppose I've done that, too. I see bits of me in all my characters (or bits of my brothers). Those are the people I know the best.

The real trouble is deciding how fake people react. Take Hannibal, the Silence of the Lambs sequel. Jodi Foster refused to be a part of the movie supposedly because she didn't agree with the ending of the book (the movie ends quite differently, by the way). Some argue that the character Clarice Starling wouldn't have done what she did in the book.

Why not? I ask. Didn't Thomas Harris create her? Isn't it ultimately his decision what his character would or wouldn't do?

To me, the controversy says that no matter how respected an author you are, someone will always find a reason to criticize you (I had no problem with either ending, by the way).

Let's look at CGI characters (that's Computer Generated Images). For a very long time, animators only animated non-human things (Toy Story, as an example) because the technology wasn't there to create humans that moved like humans. Humans could always tell the difference because we know how humans are supposed to move. It's the same with story people. If they don't feel human, the human reader notices.

This post doesn't answer the question "How do you make fake people seem real?" It simply brings it up. The fact is, you know when you've done it, and you hear about it when you haven't.

My suggestion is keep writing. Start with a character you know very well, a character that shares your interests and experiences. Once you've done that, bring in an opposite character, a character that does everything you don't, and vice versa. After you can write that, try for a balance between the two. If you must, model the character on a relative and claim ignorance when the relative notices (I have done that, but not in Star of Justice).

I'm afraid that's all I've got for the moment, other than a headache.

Maybe I'm not fully recovered yet.

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