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How to Fictionalize Characters

February 26, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 125

It is a temptation to an author to use real people as characters in novels. But the best characterisation comes from a blend of personal observation and imagination. A fictional creation should be just that. A character cannot be fully convincing unless the author fully inhabits the character, mind, body and spirit; and that can only be done through the power of imaginative sympathy. In this article I also argue that this power is fed by a knowledge and understanding of psychology.

In response to his observation of human experience and behaviour, Carl Jung postulated the theory of "the Collective Unconscious". This "collects and organises personal experiences in a similar way with each member of the species." We may see this operating in the world of creative writing when millions of us respond in a similar positive way to particular characters or relationships, for instance Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". We can then say that the story touches upon areas of human experience which are universal.

Quantum Theory suggests that we humans have free will but are limited in what we do; using the analogy of a chess game, each piece has a limited freedom of movement. We are not aware of the existence of the laws which influence our every action, and each individual in limited in a unique way. Tolstoy understood this when he wrote in "War and Peace": we must renounce a freedom that does not exist and recognise a dependence of which we are not conscious.

How can we see this working out in some well-known stories? Let me suggest a few examples from my own fiction reading.

1. A desire for truth - this is the central issue in Orwell's novel 1984; Winston Smith's struggle to undermine the Party's monopoly on Truth has struck a deep chord with so many.

2. A longing for intimacy - Emma Donoghue drew upon this for the high emotional stakes in her novel Room as we witnessed an extraordinary level of spiritual and psychological intimacy between the 5-year old boy narrator and his mother during their imprisonment, an intimacy broken after their escape from captivity.

3. Fear of death or the unknown: there is a preoccupation with this in the Harry Potter stories and it comes out repeatedly in the character of Harry. JK Rowling said she could never have written the Harry Potter books if it wasn't for the fact that she loved her mother, and her mother died. Albus Dumbledore often speaks to Harry about death, throughout the stories. It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more, he says to Harry.

I believe authors fictionalise characters by letting go of the need to "copy", "represent real life" or "get the facts right", and instead trusting to their unconscious to process observation, imagination and knowledge.

SC Skillman

S.C.Skillman is the author of "Mystical Circles", a psychological thriller described as intense, mysterious and compelling, whose characters act out their internal struggles or desires. You can buy the book on Amazon and through the Kindle Bookstore, or visit the author's website to find out more, and click the secure payment gateway to buy a signed copy at http://www.scskillman.co.uk.

Source: EzineArticles
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