Lies! We drown in lies.
Child predators sneak on the internet, lurking on game sites, luring children. Mrs. Samson of Nigeria sends emails pleading with the Most Honorable you to help get her money out of the country. Omigod! You’ve just won millions in an international lottery you didn’t even enter. All you have to do is send a money order to claim your prize. Someone from your credit card company is calling, asking to verify your security code number . . .
Is the Evil Editor real? Who is Ms. Snark? Does Sarah Weinman exist? Is David Montgomery really who he claims to be? Is that truly Barry Eisler’s hair?
How do we know truth? How do we recognize the real from the fabricated in life?
I think it’s a gut reaction — a belief — that we then own or verify.
But what happens when the whole goal is fabrication? That’s what fiction is, after all . . . . lies.
When, and how, do fictional characters ring true?
We all recognize when a character works — rock solid or skittery as a squirrel on Red Bull — we believe in her. During the reading, she exists — full formed and breathing. We hear her voice, smell her deodorant, understand her motivations, taste the garlic bread she eats.
Alas, almost as often, characters ring false. Why?
We might have physical descriptions, emotional tags, explanations about abusive relationships, but still these fictional creations resemble cardboard. For some reason, we don’t have enough of the right information to engage in their lives.
Why do we read some books and believe in those characters (and their worlds, no matter how seemingly outrageous) so much that they remain with us for weeks or years? Why do we read other stories that mean nothing to us, ones where the characters remain flat on the page and evoke no stronger reaction than to go clean the toilet?
I don’t have answers today, just questions.
Can you add to the conversation?
What makes a character ring true for you?