>A Question Of Character

>Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) from an interview by Meg Pokrass

[snip]

What makes characters likable? I know this is an absurdly complex question.

This question usually makes me rant. I’ll try to keep it brief.

For one thing, I’m always mystified by discussions of likable characters. Characters are in books; you’re not going to have lunch with them. Moreover, the best books are full of trouble, so the characters are either in trouble or causing it. Most people aren’t likable in such situations.

Even if by “likable” we just mean “characters we enjoy reading about,” rather than “characters who seem like people we’d like,” then we’re not really talking about characters at all. Otherwise, the characters would be fully portable, and readers would find Lady Macbeth equally compelling in a Harlequin novel and in Macbeth. (I suppose there are people who consider Han Solo to be an equally compelling character in Star Wars novels #12 and #43, by separate authors, but, um, give me a break.) It’s like saying that the great thing about Kind Of Blue isn’t Miles Davis, but the trumpet itself. Such a compelling instrument!


Thus, character is bunk. There is plot, and there is voice, and they conspire to create an illusion we call “literature.” It is a glorious illusion and a compelling one. When a writer tells me they’re worried about a character they usually mean there’s a flaw in the plot, or the prose just isn’t pulling things together.



Also he mentions that his mentor is the incomparable Kit Reed.

via The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

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