I recently read a review on another author’s book claiming that the author had a certain political leaning based on reading his work. I had to laugh because I didn’t think anything could be further from the truth based on what I know about the author. It reminded me of some of the funny reviews I’ve read of some of my books and assumptions about me based on the reader’s interpretation of my work.
Let me hit you with a little truth regarding writers: writers make shit up for a living.
No joke. When I write a book the last thing on my mind is making some statement (with the exception of satire). If I’m writing satire I’m probably out to lampoon some ridiculousness in the world. In Congress of the Dead I was fed up with the government shut-downs. The message was that a congress of zombies would get just as much work done as a congress of jack-holes sitting at home on their collective asses.
Writers make stuff up. They make up characters entire lives and they don’t need to base that on themselves. I’ve written 12 novels and numerous characters. Everything from far left leaning gun nuts to a lonely man stuck on an island with a zombie. At no time did I intentionally ram some political statement down anyone’s throat.
Characters develop in my head and take on a life of their own. I let them chat and have lives up in the noggin. It’s weird and probably some kind of schizophrenia and that’s okay. If I can’t make readers believe that a character is real and memorable then I’m doing a crappy job at writing.
It is true that some characters manifest themselves with the traits and characteristics of people we know, that’s unavoidable and I suspect subconscious. I also tend to ask readers if they’d like to be a character in a book or story but I don’t copy their lives. I really just need names (victims for the meat grinder) and readers seem to love having horrible on-page death scenes.
Now, not every author does this. Stephen King famously put himself in one of this Dark Tower books as the ultimate in meta-lit. Ernest Hemingway wrote about his life in his works. But for the most part, authors simply make shit up and we do that without having to ram some message down readers throats.
Think about it like this. When you watch the movie Silence of the Lambs, do viewers think to themselves: “Wow, I wonder if Anthony Hopkins is a serial killer who likes to eat people in real life because he’s do good at the role!” Maybe he does and if that’s the case he’s about the nicest serial killer around.
Actors take on a role and act it out. Writers work along the same lines except we balance out many characters in our work. A good writers gives a character a back story, goals, motivation, and then we put them in difficult situations. It’s writing 101. Take a character, put them in a tree, throw rocks at them, get them down.
You may have noticed this at the beginning of every book you’re read. “All characters, living and dead, are a figment of the author’s imagination”. Truer words, friends. Truer words.
Timothy W. Long is the author of 12 novels including the popular Z-Risen series. He is a full time author who lives in Seattle Washington. Want to read more about my work and pick up a free book? Head over to my home page and sign up for the free mailing list.