Saturday, August 22, 2009

Armchair God

One of the great disadvantages to going later in the week is that most of the cogent observations have already been made, the stronger metaphors taken. But a great advantage is the ability to be lazy and let my fellow bloggers do all the hard work.

As a writer, do you control your characters? Sophie's reference to channeling is closest to the feeling I get when telling a story to myself. I seem to agree with Kelli so often that I'm beginning to suspect we're alter egos, perhaps with me cast as her twisted subconscious or mischievous id. And I love Shane's reference to the red shirts. Who doesn't live in fear of being turned into a cube of salt on some distant planet?

But there's a difference between creation and control. I've recently become addicted to an application for the iPhone, a game called Pocket God by Bolt Creative that is a perversely perfect metaphor for all creation, either in the real or fictional world. You're the supreme being responsible for a tropical island full of natives and can create as many of the little guys as you want. But once you create them, they follow their own impulses. To eat, walk around, fish. But if you get bored with them, or you're just in a vengeful, Old Testament mood, you can hurl them into a volcano. Or feed them to a shark. Or summon red ants to eat them alive. It's sadistic, existential fun at its best.

As a writer you'll create many characters, and if you want them to come to life on the page their personality and motives must feel genuine. So as you get to know them, before long it will feel like you're anticipating their actions as opposed to dictating them. The reader should feel the same way, as if they're following someone's story, a tale driven by the characters' desires and all too human flaws. Just like the game, the characters must appear to follow their own impulses for the plot to make sense.

But if, as the writer, you decide that you don't like where the story is headed, never forget that you're in charge. You can always throw one of your characters into a volcano to remind them who's boss.

1 comment:

PK the Bookeemonster said...

I want that game. Perfect for bad moods or "taking out" someone you're mad at. Lovely.