“Ancient cultures did not worship idols. Their god-statues represented ideal states which, when meditated constantly upon, one might aspire to. Science proves there never was a mermaid, blue-skinned Krishna or a virgin birth in physical reality. Yet thought is real, and the domain of thought is the one place where gods inarguably exist, wielding tremendous power.”
This is actually a quote from Alan Moore, the graphic novelist, on the subject of what he believes spiritually. I think it’s equally applicable to writing as well. Characters don’t exist but to some people they are certainly very, very real.
Where do I come down on this argument? Do I believe that my characters are ‘real’, per say, hanging out in some strange non physical realm? As a writer, I would have to come down on the side of yes, backing that up by saying that when you spend so long with these people, they certainly do become real.
I further back that up by saying that the ‘realm of thought’ mentioned by Moore exists in writing and reading. How many times have we lost ourselves in a book, and can smell the surrounds? That’s what a writer dreams of, hitting that powerful sort of connection with the reader. Moore is right, it’s a powerful thing. I have to say that every time I read Dune, I can smell the melange, feel the heat. Arrakis is a real place, even if not physically.
To me, my characters are real. I suspect it might be why I abhor the idea of editing. I have to change what I see if ‘real’ to my characters. In my novel Tyson originally ended up with a boyfriend. In my rewrite, it’s not so certain. It was a hard step to make, taking back what was real to these people.
This could be late night ramblings (I need food), but in the very least I think it’s a great quote. Thanks for the Guardian in providing yet another good literary article.
One of these days, hopefully not too long off, I’ll be able to set Tyson free and let him live his life with his readers, rather than shacking up with me. I’ll miss him, but I know he’s not gone far.