There are stereotypes all around us in life.
Uncovering those superficial layers and delving to the heart of characterisation is what I most love about fiction literature. It affords me the luxury of learning what makes people tick in rapid time. 400 pages of watching people —
one of my favourite pastimes, even if they are imaginary — face inner demons, struggle and emerge victorious. Wow, what a ride!
‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.’
If you compare real people to our imaginary friends, you will see many of their character traits, and because we recognise
some of these, it helps us connect with them. We’ve all suffered trauma and even if the hero of a story is facing a different ordeal, we know how it feels to lose something/ someone we love, we know the pain of failing at something we desperately want to succeed at, we recognise the determination it takes to overcome life’s hurdles. Who doesn’t love a character who can rise above such challenges?
However, it’s not enough for the heroine to face a single foe, or overcome a solitary ghost from her past. Our lives aren’t like that at all; they are years of hopes and dreams and hardship and determination. It is said that we are the sum of our parts and there’s a reason it is ‘parts’ in the plural. None of us was shaped by one event alone. We were moulded by are parental figures, bruised by childhood struggles, buoyed by the people we love, and amazed by the wonders we experience. And so it is with fiction characters.
To make the heroine truly believable, she must have complex and deep-seated dilemmas. As her beliefs and fears and inner
struggles are gradually revealed, the reader grows to love and sympathise with her. Only then can we truly care about what happens to this imaginary friend, and revel in her successes.
Mistakes (although painful) can be valuable learning tools in life, and they help us sympathise with our characters too.
When our hero is hurt by his own mistake, we are rooting for him to overcome the repercussions and to make a decision that leads him on a different path. How many times have we sat on the edge of the couch, nibbling fingernails and shouted ‘Just do it!’? A book offers the chance for the hero to have multiple disasters thrown at him, one after the next, to have his beliefs and morals peeled back to bare bones. Only then can he start to rebuild his life and take us along on the journey.
When the heroine finally grasps that final hand hold at the top of the mountain and drags her battered body over the peak, that’s when I cry for joy. We both collapse in a pile, exhausted from the journey we’ve taken together and satisfied by the success we earned.
What fiction characters moved you?
Some of my favourites are:
1. Gin from Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin Series. An orphaned girl living on the streets who was taken in by a mild mannered assassin and taught the ropes. A powerful mix of
feminine battler and cold killer.
2. Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s Millenium
Trilogy. A misfit who has endured unspeakable injustice
and uses her mind to unravel criminals and entrepreneurs
3. Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich’s Plum Series. A fearless suburbanite with serious attitude and misguided grit who gets into lots of sticky situations as she tries her hand
at bounty hunting. Guaranteed to make me laugh out loud.