I didn’t really like the movie Stranger Than Fiction. Maybe because I’ve never been a fan of Will Ferrell. Or maybe because his character was, unlike my characters, deprived of free will.
In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, the movie is about a (rather boring) man who discovers he’s the main character in a book being written by an author who always kills her main characters. He tries to have a less boring life and to convince her not to kill him. He only really succeeds at one of these.
He discovers that he’s in a book by being able to hear the omniscient narrator saying stuff like “little did he know” and describing his actions. (And thoughts, I think. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it.) By contrast, my characters can’t hear what the Narrator says unless he appears to them as a character. His running commentary is only visible to the reader.
But the main comparison I want to make is the relationship between the character and the author. In Stranger Than Fiction, the book takes place in the same world as the author. It’d be like me writing about you — and unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think I could pick up the book next to me and see you in it.
And her characters have no free will, they are completely at the mercy of the author. If she writes that they jump off a building, they have to comply. Unfortunately for Will Ferrell, his author is determined to finish her story and kill him — and in fact spends most of the movie trying to figure out the best way to do so. (And she’d have managed it if not for a really terrible example of deus ex machina.)
My main characters, on the other hand, are able to fight back. The author and narrator can manipulate the elements around them and control the minor characters, but they can’t dictate what Calder will say or do next.
Otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a story.
Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.