“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov
My heartbeat kept pace with each decibel from Jaco Pastorius’ Kuru/Speak Like a Child; music set so loud bass notes ricochet off the car’s interior. The electrified audio wavelengths raised invisible hairs along my arms. Around each bend and dip of the mountain pass I could feel the strains of Jaco flowing out of the cd player as if he played for an audience of one. Around the next bend, I glance over my shoulder to the empty back seat, haunted by the shadows of memory.
Anyone reading the above passage would instantly know this emotional entourage belonged to me. In this instance I’m showing how the music translated to one individual on a lone mountain drive. Aspects of who I am are entwined into the narrative. I’m a Jaco fan who likes my music ear piercing loud. I’m the road warrior who feels each twist of the backwoods road and I’m haunted by a missing presence in the back seat of the car. In this way I gave a character in a narrative life.
So it goes for every character a writer brings to life. We don’t need to convince you to like the characters music or even agree with their beliefs. You don’t even have to like the character much at all for that matter, but you will get to know the personality traits of the character before the story ends. If you don’t, the writer hasn’t provided their character with any believable traits the reader can relate to. The next argument would be that of course the first paragraph is believable; the above outline of my day was based on reality.
Stephen King said fiction is the truth inside the lie. Every piece of fiction in print has a measure of truth and reality strewn among the storyline. The trick is to remove the reader from their way of seeing life and placing them inside the storyline with an in-depth look into the life of a character. Of course we each have our own personality traits and beliefs that limit our understanding of other human beings. This simple truth applies to how the reader views characters in a book as well.
I had a conversation with another writer about voice and personality in our writing. My opinion follows our writing is an extension of our personality, which is in itself a writer’s voice beneath the storyline. In this instance the friend in question wasn’t sure if his beliefs should be that of a character. In whatever we write, we’re there and we’re not. We are the narrators of a character’s life, we don’t necessarily always agree with the attributes we give a character, nor are we the character. The challenge is for the reader to see and believe in the character without knowing the hidden narrator’s personality is still present. Complicated? Not really, considering how many people we befriend in real life who won’t always agree with everything we do or say.
In the long run you don’t have to believe a single thing you read, you just need to believe the character in the story believes what they do, and this in turn dictates their actions (Kind of reminds you of life in general doesn’t it?). It’s called extending believability, brought about by a writer’s gift of words. An apt description of writing would be living life in all aspects of reality – the insanity of the sane. For us (me) it’s kind of like having the life you never had or taking chances you never did through the life of a character. ~ Indigo
For your pleasure, Jaco Pastorius' Kuru/Speak Like a Child: