I’ve debated through a few recent essays building up “The Story” whether these characters, their world, and everything related was created by my imagination and represents nothing more than that or whether I found them living independently of me. I’ll just say that they exist as part of some sort of fictional world just so I can put that notion to rest. I’ll explain my reasonings along with some counterarguments and counterexamples after the jump…
I was inspired by setting my thoughts down from wacky anime character designs.
Most seem to be created for purely visual aesthetics. When I draw character designs, it’s easier for me to imagine filling in the blanks through utilitarian purposes. The character might have a headband because otherwise there’s too much blank space or they might be wearing a piece of clothing because it looked cool. I don’t know for sure, but for me when I would design fancy characters, their wardrobe would seldom have deeper meanings besides what would make sense for their world.
That’s an example leaning into the creation side of the creation versus foundation spectrum.
For something more foundational, as in found or imagined, I can occasionally summon scenes from “The Story” just by getting myself into a relaxed mindset, focusing on nothing, and letting my imagination go. Scenes will unfold in that headspace. When I wrote my first novel, I tapped into that mindset perhaps too frequently for my mind to handle, perhaps causing my headaches, but rarely did I just go with surface-level aesthetic choices. I did at times, so I don’t think it’s purely one or the other, but for me, I’ll lean closer into the foundation side of things with my own writing, because much of what I do is just imagining things.
There is no right answer here because even with the anime example, there are contradictions.
Instead, I’ll dig into a more specific example from my first novel, the character Hank Osprey. He arrived into my imagination as perhaps an amalgamation of a few different characters and people. Hank is a mentor character to Sammohini, that novel’s main character and old sister to Trishna, one of the two main characters of “The Story.” I was inspired by some people that have, similarly, mentored me in that capacity throughout my career. I placed a little more of myself into his character than I might normally, not to the point of being an author insert but just as seeding point, along with one colleague at work I won’t name who I mentioned once as reminding me of Hank.
Hank, then, was both created and found.
The more you get to know a character, though, the more they can become independent of those created character traits. For a character like Hank, he can reveal his hidden depths only after I’ve thought about him enough to let him, if we say he started as a created character, reveal imaginary scenes as he grows into his own character. Does that mean created characters are automatically more two-dimensional? Does that mean we should always strive for deeply-imagined characters? There is danger in these sorts of absolutes, because sometimes it’s OK to include a partially-developed character that might just fill a role. I fill many roles within society, and not all of them take up the whole of my psyche, sometimes it’s just being “some guy ahead of you at the grocery store,” so there is no need for this deep investigation for characters like that.
That’s why although fun to consider, these thoughts have limited value for me.
When I wrote my first novel, when I needed a character, I’d find that character. I like the idea of throwing randomizers into the mix in the creation of characters. Fairydust is an example of that. She arrived so fully formed with just one click that I saved the results and referred to them. Was Fairydust created by that randomizer or did Fairydust demand to exist so badly that she popped up through that randomizer into my imagination?
I’ll leave that question up to the scholars and researchers.
Instead, I just found it easy to write Fairydust’s character, so I was happy with the result. I tried other randomized examples but nothing was even half as good, so whether she was created by the randomizer or found her way through those randomizers, I suppose, would also be a question left up for the theologists in the back to ponder. These are existential questions about the nature of fiction as a whole, and at least in my current perception of fiction writing, this and other essays I’ve written on the matter are as clear and succinct as I can be on the topic.
Maybe I’ll know more definitively after I write “The Story?”
Until then, I’m just happy being able to explore their world, especially now that I’ve created or found that time in my week to write twice-weekly even with paltry meandries exploring the nature of the writing craft itself rather than the actual story itself. I suppose authorial intent and death of the author are important questions to ask and that includes how we consider the narratives themselves.
I suppose this serves one practical purpose.
If I become a problematic figure for people, then if they knew “The Story” as I want it to be was completely devoid of me, they could still appreciate “The Story” even if they hate me. I am not above this myself. I do not appreciate the works of bad people. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything people do before I can support their works, and if I interact with something I enjoy only to find out the person or persons involved are not “good” or agreeable, well, there are mixed thoughts there. There’s no easy answer for anything I wrote about above.
Still, in general, I’m not a fan of the most terrible people or works out there…
|Sources: The Story’s Imaginarium along with my personal experiences.|
|Inspirations: After writing yesterday’s essay, I made a note for the next essay as “I’ll pick the side of digging into the world of “The Story” but then there’s stuff like anime characters where they’re designed by artists, so which is right?]” on my Betcal. I jammed on those ideas as amateurishly as I can…|
|Related: Essays building “The Story.” My first novel has some related things in it, too. Go read that and the supplemental essays. I liked writing all that and I imagine I would like it if I didn’t write it.|
|Picture: I created this picture.|
|Written On: 2020 April 11 [From 1:42am to “randomizer into my imagination” at 2:08am. From maybe 2:26am to 2:32am. Gdocs.]|
|Last Edited: 2020 April 12 [Adapted from Gdoc, so, second draft; final draft for the Internet.]|