I was at Jewish Book Week in London in a room with two fabulous writers. There was a large crowd and some very enthusiastic readers and fans. The one speaker, struggled with a fan’s eager questions. Over and over again, the author was asked, what her character–– let’s call her Annie was going to do next. The reply was a frustrated, “Annie’s a character, she’s not real.” Again the fans persisted, when are you going to write about her again? Is she going to…etc. Again the author was clearly frustrated and confused by the reaction of her fans, replied–– She’s not real. I don’t know what she wants to do next. I wanted to jump up and shout, Congratulations! But there is a time and place for everything. So I remained silent, watching and listening.
It is the highest compliment any writer can have for fans to cross that line and feel so strongly about a character that reality blurs. As a writer, when this happens, jump up with joy for you have successfully created a person, ( albeit not real) that breathes, and more importantly, a character the reader cares and worries about. This is fabulous success! Wow! This is the kind of writing that I love to read. The only time to really worry about fans crossing the lines, is when they knock at your front door with cookies for your character and not you.
For years, people wrote to the most famous not real detective of all time, Sherlock Holmes, sending letters for requests of help in solving a case for them. The outrage of the public when Conan Doyle killed off Holmes was so great that he was forced to bring the old boy out of the grave. Such is the power of a fabulous creation.
Maybe next time, I will stand up and shout to the author! Congratulations! You did it! Hurrah!! But I rather like going to these events without security chasing me out the door!
Sometimes fans of book series can take it too far. I recently read an article about readers who were making online comments like “if I saw that author in person right now, I’d punch her in the face” because they didn’t like what she did with a character. And that was one of the nicer comments. Crazy.
Carrie, that is scary! Course Conan Doyle got death threats!
I think it would have been more appropriate to shout “you’re not fulfilling your side of the deal” to the writer. When we create a story on paper or in person we are requiring the audience to accept the people and places we create in order to follow the story. When they do (and that is still the highest compliment to any writer) the author must at least acknowledge that the reader is doing their part of the bargain; they believe and have made these characters real in their minds. Don’t then say, “but they’re not real, I don’t know what they are going to do”, that’s not fair. It’s also very bad for sales to turn off your readers by belittling them for willingly suspending their disbelief.