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Fictional Characters

  • In the theater, as in life, we prefer a villain with a sense of humor to a hero without one.

  • As a creator of character his peculiarity is that he creates wherever his eyes rest ... With such a power at his command Dickens made his books blaze up, not by tightening the plot or sharpening the wit, but by throwing another handful of people upon the fire.

  • I remember how surprised I was when my first novel was about to be published and I was informed that I could be sued for anything any one of my characters said. 'But I often don't agree with what they say,' I protested. The lawyer was not interested in the clear distinction I make between my own voice and the voices of my characters. Neither, I have found, are many of my readers.

    • Jane Rule,
    • "Sexuality in Literature," Outlander ()
  • Fictional characters exist in only two places, neither of which is on the printed page. They exist, first, in the mind of the writer and, second, in the mind of the reader.

  • ... I do believe that in every age there are people whose consciousness transcends their own time and that these people, whether fictional or historical, are those with whom we most closely identify and those about whom we most enjoy reading.

  • I became, and remain, my characters' close and intent watcher: their director, never.

  • One of the strangest quirks of the human mind is its capacity for being moved to tears, laughter, anger, anxiety, joy by a 'person' who exists nowhere except in imagination!

  • Once a character has gelled it's an unmistakable sensation, like an engine starting up within one's body. From then onwards one is driven by this other person, seeing things through their eyes ...

  • The ability to choose puts human beings in control of their actions. Implied in choice is that the action taken is best, and that all other options are overruled. We cannot knowingly choose what is not good for us. The ability to pursue a course, whether it is a popular one or not, is measured in courage. The greater the courage, the greater the possibility we will act for change. I build my characters around the dynamics of choice, courage, and change.

  • ... if an author would have us feel a strong degree of compassion, his characters must not be too perfect.

    • Anna Laetitia Barbauld,
    • "An Inquiry Into Those Kinds of Distress Which Excite Agreeable Sensations," The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld, vol. 2 ()
  • Build a concept around a conflict and characters audiences can root for. A dog that savagely kills its owners and then embarks on a search for new owners is a tough sell.

  • Plot springs from character ... I've always sort of believed that these people inside of me — these characters — know who they are and what they're about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don't type.

    • Anne Lamott,
    • in Alexander Gordon Smith, Writing Bestselling Children's Books ()
  • ... great villains make great movies.

  • It is hard to make your adversaries real people unless you recognize yourself in them — in which case, if you don't watch out, they cease to be adversaries.

  • ... it is better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble the foe ...

  • Show me a character totally without anxieties and I will show you a boring book.

  • I don't engage in self-censorship. But I do change everybody to have red hair in the last draft. ... If you give people red hair when in real life they haven't got red hair, I've noticed they don't recognize themselves, anyway.

  • My characters live inside my head for a long time before I actually start a book. They become so real to me, I talk about them at the dinner table as if they are real. Some people consider this weird. But my family understands.

    • Judy Blume,
    • in Rachel Chandler, The Most Important Lessons in Life ()
  • A writer soon discovers he has no single identity but lives the lives of all the people he creates and his weathers are independent of the actual day around him. I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.

  • Characters in the subconscious mind of a writer are not different from prisoners; they are always seeking a way out.

  • I don't think I ever relinquish a person I have known, and surely not my fictional characters. I see them, I hear them, with a clarity that I would call hallucinatory if hallucination didn't mean something else ... A character whom we create can never die, any more than a friend can die ... Through [my characters] I've lived many parallel lives.

  • One nourishes one's created characters with one's own substance: it's rather like the process of gestation. To give the character life, or to give him back life, it is of course necessary to fortify him by contributing something of one's own humanity, but it doesn't follow from that that the character is I, the writer, or that I am the character. The two entities remain distinct.

  • You don't build for the way people live, but for the way they should live. I don't write about people as they are, but as they could be and should be.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • to Frank Lloyd Wright (1944), in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • Are my characters copies of people in real life? ... Don't ever believe the stories about authors putting people into novels. That idea is a kind of joke on both authors and readers. All the readers believe that authors do it. All the authors know that it can't be done.

    • Ayn Rand,
    • 1945, in Michael S. Berliner, ed., Letters of Ayn Rand ()
  • I woke up last night and thought: 'I must call somebody in my next novel Casablanca.' It's such a great name. I don't want to call anybody Fred or Jane or Susan, so when three people get into bed together, you don't know who they are.

  • Fictional characters, he had lately found, were generally more interesting dinner companions than flesh-and-blood ones.

  • Characters make their own plot. The dimensions of the characters determine the action of the novel.

  • Conflict is the place where character and plot intersect.

  • Characterization is not divorced from plot, not a coat of paint you slap on after the structure of events is already built. Rather characterization is inseparable from plot.

  • Lord Peter's large income ... cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet.