When writers play God
February 20, 2019
As Ernest Hemingway said, “Write your stories about people. Don’t sit around making up characters.”
Writers live on a bridge.
It’s a swinging bridge.
One end is tied to reality.
Writers have no idea where the other end is tied.
That’s why they’re trying to cross the bridge.
On the far side is where they want to be.
On the far side, they play God and can create a world of their own.
Want it to rain?
Want to be lost in a dry and heat-seared desert?
Erase the rain.
Bring on the sun.
It’s a relentless sun.
Bring on a woman.
Or a man.
We mold the characters we want to hang out with a while.
We hurt them.
We disappoint them.
We frustrate them.
We kill them off.
Or, if we have any sense of decency, and few of us ever do, we let them ride off into the sunset.
What do characters do?
They populate our stories.
Our stories populate our novels.
Everything is real.
Nothing is real.
As John Updike said: We’re past the age of heroes and hero kings. Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’ up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.
So how do we make our characters interesting?
We make them believable.
Hemingway once said, and I paraphrase loosely, write your stories about people. Don’t sit around making up characters. People are living, breathing, human beings filled with love and fear, likes and dislikes, hopes and emotions. Characters are caricatures.
We don’t tell readers about our characters.
We show readers who and what they are.
We give them life.
We give them a voice.
We miss them terribly when they are gone.
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