For several chapters of Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix, Harry fell into a moody, self-pitying rut. There were several reasons for this. He felt isolated, he’d suffered loss and he’d been labelled a liar. He was a teenager bearing the weight of an adult world. These were good reasons. They made sense. Nevertheless, during those chapters, I wanted to reach into the book and shake some sense into him. And when he finally found sense, I took my relief with a degree of about-bloody-time.
More recently, I read a book where I followed the main character’s life from childhood. She was a level-headed, astute and observant child with a fairly stable upbringing. I’d been drawn into this character’s world and watched her grow. As an adult, tragedy struck and in her grief she sought solace in a one night stand. This behaviour felt (for want of a better word) uncharacteristic.
The truth of Harry’s character saved him. It allowed me to reconcile some frustration and accept his pain. The latter example screamed complete character betrayal. The writer just wanted to compose a sex scene. Obviously. Except that the other element at play here is me. Me, the reader. Perhaps it was uncharacteristic, or perhaps my own moral beliefs and rational thinking prevented me from seeing the character as writer did.
This blog comes off the back of this one by Sinéad O’Hart, that discusses specifically portraying love in YA fiction. As I grapple with finding truth in my own characters, I see that the same questions apply. Have I made my characters real? Whose kind of real are they?
When I read, I’m a filter. The words are poured through a mesh composed of my memories, experience, faith, cynicisms and morals and they’re unique to me. Sometimes the story emerges distorted. Sometimes it remains the same. And sometimes the story changes my filters.
When I write, it’s my truth. I can only hope you read it too.