Friday, March 4, 2011

In which I change my mind

Early last month I gave a bad, rough overview of death of the author while staying up to all hours. In that post I said I don't really have an opinion on death of the author, and while that still holds true from a standpoint of analysis and criticism, the more I think about it the more I realise that, actually, I'm a bit more in favour of word of god when it comes to characters. When I say a bit more I mean absolutely.

Not to say that there isn't room for some degree of alternate interpretations, but I think that the author's view of the character isn't just a view, it is the character.

We always know more about the characters than the page conveys. We have to. To know a character is to be able to write that character. Knowing how someone behaves now without understanding why they are the way they are gets you nowhere. The character falls flat. But just because you know the reasons behind their behaviour it doesn't mean you have to include them in the narrative either.

A story is just that. A story. You only have so much time, so many pages to tell a story. Even if you had a million million pages, it's important to keep the story to the story. Sure, you probably will end up with some degree of information that could be left out.

I don't have to mention early in my current manuscript that Ashley usually just slaps together jeans, hoodie, sloppy bun: good to go. But I do, because it isn't an entirely unnecessary divergence, and it tells you more about her (and also spares me having to describe things every so often, and I don't describe characters much because I like to leave the physical bits up to the reader).

The story is the story. But you have to know your characters to write your characters. So, invariably, a lot more detail will make the cut than actually makes the page, either through implication or direct statement. Yet the lack of this information being apparent on the page doesn't make it any less true.

An author doesn't necessarily know everything, but we know more than we let on. For me at least, when it comes to characters, word of god is precisely that. No comprise, no discussion. A character is who they are, and who they are is on the page and in the author's mind.

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