Thursday, May 30, 2013

Creator Versus Character

Where does the author end and the character begin? I think this is confusing for a lot of people.

One of my favorite television shows is Dexter. Dexter is a television show about a serial killer. Dexter has writers. Do I think the people who write scripts for it all secretly wish to be serial killers like him? No. Even though Dexter is a character that we are supposed to like, I don't think the writers believe that being a serial killer is okay. The show glorifies it, but the writers, personally, probably do not.

At the same time though, I know I wrote Medusa's Desire not only because I love Greek mythology, but also because I find monsters and dark creatures interesting. I also drew on some of my own insecurities when writing about her thoughts and feelings. So there's some of me and my experiences in that book.

Pandora's Mistake, on the other hand, has almost nothing in common with my real life. I don't even know people who behave like the characters do.

It's no wonder that readers sometimes get confused reading books. They can't tell which part of books the author drew from personal experiences and which parts are purely fiction. And since social media is a more recent invention, the stories of authors used to be the only way we could get to know them.

I remember once reading a review for a book that I was thinking of purchasing. One of the reviewers complained because the main character called things she didn't like "retarded". The reviewer had a child with Down syndrome and felt that the author was prejudiced against people with Down syndrome and portraying them in a bad light by having a character use a derogatory slang word. The author replied personally to the review, saying that she would never use that word-it was only her character who felt that way. And the reviewer argued that it still encouraged people to use the word in a derogatory fashion.

I can see the truth in both their points. But at the same time it bothers me. I'm not racist for instance, but I have met racist people. Doesn't it make sense for their to be characters in books that are racist and have other faults since people like that exist in real life? Are things like that only allowed if the prejudiced person is portrayed as the villain? Or is it better not to write about it at all to help racism disappear from our society?

Why is it okay to write about a serial killer as a hero, but not a prejudiced person? Or are both bad things?

Do these books really encourage society as a whole to behave badly? And how much of this is the authors responsibility?

I have to admit that there have been times when I have been offended by certain character's personality traits and even made assumptions about an author's belief because of it. But is that fair or is it better to just analyze the characters and their actions without involving the author and their opinions at all?

It's a very complex topic in my opinion and one to consider when creating characters and giving them certain faults. I, as an author, love to explore the taboo at times, but there are still things that even I am terrified to write about.


T.J. said...

It is very hard to figure those things out. But in this day and age, no matter what you do, you will offend someone.

The Dexter reference is a good one. And makes sense, but for some odd reason, if it is a book, people see it differently. I haven't figured that part out yet.

Great blog.

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