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Character Experience

"In novels of psychological realism there is a character-creating impulse which has its own inner logic and which tends to go its own way, whatever the implied author's formal and thematic intentions may be." (Paris 219)

I have heard many a writer talk of how surprised they were when their character moved or acted differently than they had initially expected them to. This doesn't mean that the character took over the writing of the story, but it does mean that the psychological expectations of the characters motives changed according to the actions and conflicts within the story itself. I believe this is what Paris is trying to get at in his essay. The realism of the fictional character comes through in the believability of the characters actions and emotions throughout a story. Does the reader or critic believe that a person would truly respond in a certain way to certain situations? The wonderful thing about this is realistically every person acts differently in situations, so to make the character realistic the writer must "go with" the characters personality traits, which the author has created.

We may not be able to say emphatically that one persons idea of realism is more real than another, but the author must be true to ones characters and "listen" to what they are saying as one weaves the story. In this way the characters can surprise the author by "taking control" so to speak.

Comments (3)

Greta Carroll:

Mara, I always enjoy reading your blog entries because you always give me the writer’s perspective on these articles. I am not a big creative writer and don’t really consider myself to be that good at it, so it’s always interesting to read what you have to say about it. When I read Paris’s article, I was having a hard time agreeing with most of what he said. And I like the way you explained it, but I still keep coming to this stumbling block. You commented that, “Does the reader or critic believe that a person would truly respond in a certain way to certain situations? The wonderful thing about this is realistically every person acts differently in situations…” My problem with Paris’s article is that isn’t the realm of realistic actions and responses which the character may have still limited by what the author can imagine? And if the character’s responses are limited by this, then how can a character be truly mimetic?

Mara, like Greta, I really enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the good work!

I really liked when you said, "The realism of the fictional character comes through in the believability of the characters actions and emotions throughout a story. " This reminded me of what Paris said about realistic fiction. He said that realistic fiction deals with "character" and "social milieu." Your comment reminded me of this because you pretty much described what Paris was trying to say about the character. The "social milieu" part has to do with the interaction of the character with others, the culture, and their own social position. So writing a story about a girl who spends hours a week contacting her fellow peers via blogs would be a realistic example of interaction. The fact that she complains about it also makes it more realistic. This in no way is based off of anyone or anything I know. lol

Quinn Kerno:

I too have often read about how an author's characters seemingly evoke a life of their own in an unexpected direction from the author's original intent. In terms of realism this phenomenon is conceptually relevent. It would seem that this seems to evoke some rare status of literary realism. However, I also see Greta's problem with this article and the question she poses warrants a valid argument. The work is certainly limited by the author's imagination.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 14, 2009 3:03 PM.

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