Our needs, character needs

Well, a slightly distracted post today, as I’m at home, working on a re-draft of the novel. It’s coming together nicely; so far I’ve chopped out about 10,000 words. Key changes so far are to get rid of the very slow moving opening chapters, and sharpen up the ghostly hermaphrodite from another dimension that’s a key player in the action.

One of the key features of the book is the way that Tramaziel – the fantasised secondary world that various characters have been to, come from or just read about – is presented. As far as possible, you only see it diffracted through people; through their memories or dreams of it.

This was very interesting to write, as it gave me access to (in effect) a variety of different, albeit related, fantasy worlds. A child’s eye view of magical city is very different from an adult’s one – something that’s very interesting to play with in a book that spend a lot of time thinking about how and why we create fantasies from the realities that surround us.

And that process of fantasy creation is very interesting. Fantasy and sf often present the wondrous in a very unmediated way, showing it having the same ‘wow’ impact on story characters as it is meant to have on us as readers.

But people don’t work like that. Quite apart from the problem of familiarisation (what’s defamiliarising for us is normal world for characters), there’s the way that humans tend to build interpretations of the worlds around them according to their own emotional needs.

And our needs as f&sf readers will often be very different from the needs of characters living in the worlds we go to for escapism, excitement and awe. That’s a gap that’s not always acknowledged; but it should be, because it makes for more honest and ultimately far more textured and engaging fiction.

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