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Discussion » Questions » Books and Literature » If or when a writer gets you to care about--and feel invested in--a fictional character, does that stem from a sort of manipulation?

If or when a writer gets you to care about--and feel invested in--a fictional character, does that stem from a sort of manipulation?

Posted - April 25, 2020

Responses


  • 19942
    I don't think so.  If I take a liking to a particular character in a book and that book becomes part of a series, I like to follow the series.  Mitch Rapp - a character in Vince Flynn's books.  Flynn has passed away, but his stories continue being written by Kyle Mills.  Jack Reacher - a character in Lee Child's books.  Amos Decker, David Baldacci's Memory Man series, Rizzoli and Isles in Tess Gerritsen's series; Lt. Eve Dallas in J.D. Robb's "death" series books.   
      April 25, 2020 7:51 AM MDT
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  • 1421
    I'm with you, Spunky: there's no getting around the importance of characters. But I'm trying to approach the matter from an angle of how and why readers value fiction. If, for example, we praise a novel for almost making us cry when something bad happens to the protagonist -- have we in a way been "duped" by the author, to have feelings for someone who is completely imaginary? Does that in itself make for commendable writing?

    And we could go a step further, asking: if I enjoy a book that has me empathise with a protagonist's sorrow, what does that say of human emotion? Do we actually like to have those feelings; does some of our enjoyment require others (whether imaginary or real) to suffer?

    If you prefer, we can treat these as rhetorical questions :) That is to say, I don't mean to demand any answers.
      April 25, 2020 12:41 PM MDT
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  • 19942
    In all honesty, I have never given this much thought.  I read for pleasure, I like the author's style, I like the story that's told.  I haven't delved into the why's and wherefores you've proposed - perhaps, I'm not that deep.  You have clearly given this a great deal of thought.  
      April 25, 2020 2:19 PM MDT
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  • 6988
    I have a hero in any story I write. However, I have not yet begun to actually transfer anything from my imagination to printed paper. 
      April 25, 2020 8:02 AM MDT
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  • 1421
    So you print the paper and then write on it?

    I'm kidding; and I too tend to wait a long time prior to any actual writing. Ezra Pound was no fan of “the sort of person who tells you that when he did his first book he ‘just sat down and wrote the first paragraph,’ and then found he ‘couldn’t stop.’” It helps to have a good grasp of characters, structure, and beats beforehand.

    Good luck to you when you do dive in!
      April 25, 2020 12:33 PM MDT
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  • 23068

    I don't know.

    :)

    But it certainly happens to me. And I'm OK with that.



    This post was edited by WelbyQuentin at May 26, 2020 12:47 PM MDT
      May 25, 2020 8:55 PM MDT
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  • 1421
    Haha, perfectly valid answer, Welbz! :)
      May 26, 2020 12:48 PM MDT
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  • 23068
    :)
    :)
      May 26, 2020 7:30 PM MDT
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  • 52993

     

    Intentional manipulation on the part of the author? I don’t believe so, not at all. 


    ~

      May 26, 2020 10:12 PM MDT
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  • 1421
    I'm sure no author thinks of what they do as such, but couldn't there be some such intent? Say, from any writer who reckons their work will see greater (commercial) success if they employ certain techniques and tricks, specifically to have an audience care about something not worth that attachment (in and of itself)?
      May 28, 2020 9:42 AM MDT
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  • 52993

     

      What you’ve described above seems more appropriate in non-fiction works than in fiction works. 

    ~

      May 28, 2020 10:27 AM MDT
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  • 1421
    Yes, that's a fair point, Randy. 

    That non-fiction (or what is presented as such) can manipulate, however, I think is rather evident. With this question, I was mostly interested in discussing what makes for valuable fiction, and what it says of us that we seem to like being made to feel for fictional beings--to the point where we'll often criticize those writers who don't manage (or don't want) to bring this about.
      May 28, 2020 1:40 PM MDT
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