Saturday, 3 March 2012

Fiction or Life?

I had a completely different post in mind this week but the nice thing about blogs is that you can change  - nothing is set in stone.

Last night a friend and I were chatting over a bottle of wine when I was posed a question that I thought might be right up the street of us bloggers. This friend feels that characters in books are more real than real life, the characters often more fully depicted. In real life we only get a glimpse of a person but writers give us thoughts and feelings and we can get to the nub of a character. This is not my topic but background to the question I was asked, though it is a poser - because he went on to ask me which character in a book had influenced the development of my character and how I lived my life.
Gabriel Oak - not an excuse to have Alan Bates here in the screen role..

For him the two most important have been Edwin Clayhanger in Arnold Bennett's Clayhanger trilogy and Gabriel Oak in Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. Aside from the fact that he is probably living in the wrong century they are both men with strong, independent, honest, self sufficient spirits living their lives with sensitivity.

I struggled! As a woman would I only be finding women to relate to, and if so what little choice...In fact 24 hours later I realised that my choice would have to be Robinson Crusoe or Henri Charriere aka Papillon and for some of the same characteristics - indomitable and adaptable spirits.  Of course there have been other influences - in Anne Tyler's Ladder of Years Delia Grinstead,  the female lead,  told me that I could alter the course of my life and I suppose I still had her story etched in my brain when I did just that some years ago. Delia dared to think the unthinkable about how unhappy she was. But I only listened to the part that suited me - in the novel I don't think she really makes a success of a new some ways she repeats her old one which is pretty depressing.

I don't have an almost tangible presence sitting on my shoulder that I ask "I wonder what you would do in this situation" which my friend has - a kind of Jiminy Cricket to Pinnochio this sounds like - a conscience - now you know I have watched too many films..
Jiminy cricket

So do we choose characters because they reflect what we are like anyway or do we really change because we have been alongside them in books?


  1. I agree that the characters in books are often more real than in real real life. Where a character is fully developed we know more about them than our friends often know about us. I've found many book characters fascinating but can't think of any I've really identified with - except perhaps Huckleberry Finn.

  2. Interesting question to ponder. I think it can go either way. Sometimes I tend to start thinking in the terms of characters I identify with, while I am often drawn to a story that sounds like something I can easily identify with and characters who seem more like I am. A lot might depend on the portrayal and the skill of the writing.

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