Reality in Fiction


This past week, an acquaintance asked me how I named my characters in my fiction.  Did I name villains after people I disliked/hated?  Did I name the good guys after people I liked?  Her question fascinated me, actually.  I’m not certain what her motivation was in asking the question, but I’ve run in to people who assume that fiction writers use the naming of characters to either gain a revenge or declare undying love for the real person with that name.  The reality is this: I name fictional characters with names either they tell me they want, or the names fit their personalities, or I choose names I like and want to have fun with.  I do not name fictional characters after real people.

Another question I field more often than not is: Which character are you?  As I have not written about real people in my novels, I have also not written about myself.  The Perceval novels are not autobiographical.  I make up the stories.  They are fiction.  Nonfiction is the proper place for real people and autobiography.

What is real in fiction?  I work hard to make the locations as authentic and true to the actual locations as I can.  I have created some fictional locations, however, to fit the story and action.  I work hard also with language to create authentic images and physical action.  When Evan punches a cop in the face, that is an authentic action — men punch other men in the face in certain situations.  In the Perceval novels, almost all the composers actually lived, and their compositions that I use are also real.  But there are also fictional composers and fictional music in the novels.

You could say that the time period is also real — the future.  We believe in the passage of time.  It is real for us and our perception of physical existence.  But, the actual details of the future world in the Perceval series are fictional.  I thought setting the novel in the future would be freeing, but I still must create an authentic world, one that is plausible and makes sense to readers.  I made the decision early to treat the future in a speculative way instead of a science fiction or fantasy way.  I didn’t want those genres to dictate what I could and could not create in my Perceval future.  And I wanted to shatter expectations about what earth’s future would look like.  You won’t find any hover cars in Europe 2048.

The Perceval novels are character based rather than plot based.  They are more literary than genre.  My characters, settings, action must all have their own reality in which they exist in the imagination, mine and my readers’.  I focus in on three characters in the first novel, although most of it is from Evan Quinn’s point of view.  He must be an authentic musician and conductor.  At the same time, I prefer he be his own person and not a representation of someone who lived.  While doing research on conductors, I asked questions about certain behaviors I’d given Evan to insure that no living conductor shared those behaviors.  I never want someone to say, “Oh, yeah, Evan Quinn is really _____________.” (Fill in blank with name of famous conductor.)

Fiction is not reality.  However, to achieve authenticity, fictional stories need to be grounded in reality…..

 

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