The other day I watched a movie called Stranger Than Fiction. I started wondering about our stories and characters we create, and how they come alive in people’s minds. But what if they were real?
For those unfamiliar with the film, it tells about Harold Crick, an IRS employee who one day starts hearing a narration of his own life. Narrating how he brushes his teeth and how he walks to work is one thing, but when the voice mentions Harold’s impending death, he gets scared and seeks out help. In the meanwhile, Karen Eiffel is struggling with writer’s block, trying hard to figure out how to kill Harold Crick – a character in her novel.
Stories and characters can become real in our minds. Reading transfers us from this world to anywhere we want, to magic schools or enchanted forests, to a scene of war or love, to the past or future. I’ve heard several people say they enjoy books because they make new friends. Fictional characters can never replace real people, but they still have a place in our hearts. We laugh with them, we worry for them, we cry when horrible things happen to them. We care. Cosplay is one way to breathe life into fictional characters. They’re not the “real thing” but they show how big of an impact words and stories have on us.
What if your characters were real? What if one day, out of the blue, the main character of your latest story walks up to you and says “Hey, you wrote me.” Would you be happy? Ready to sit down and chat? Scared you’re going nuts? Instantly going over the bad things you’ve made happen to him/her, expecting revenge?
At least I like to have chats with my characters – on paper. I don’t know how I would react if I actually met them as real people. Comparing to some authors out there, I go easy on my characters. I wouldn’t have a pile of bodies lining up, but it would still be unnerving. Maybe if they didn’t know I wrote them? That could be nice. Or meeting characters from other books and stories!
As writers, we don’t have to take responsibility for a lot of things. If characters suddenly burst out to life, I’d imagine the number of tragedies would plummet. The deliberating part of writing is that we can do anything we imagine because it’s not real. Some say a pen is mightier than a sword, and I’ve stated somewhere that sometimes fiction can be more powerful than the truth, but it’s still a world away from instantly shaping reality.
I’m sure some people would jump at the opportunity to change the world with their words, but not everyone, and the results could vary from catastrophic to wonderful (but I’m leaning towards the first option for some reason). Maybe it’s good our stories live on only in hearts and minds. Sometimes we need a break a from reality and books are one of the best ways to do that. How dull would it be if everything always had to be real?
But for the sake of conversation. Which fictional character (yours or someone else’s) would you want to meet if they were real and why? What kind of a story would you write if the events transferred to real life?