Friday, July 20, 2012

Character's vs author's world view

Recently I had the pleasure of listening to Paul Griffin’s keynote speech at the Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival. He read an excerpt from his book STAY WITH ME that was deep and dark. I won’t spoil it just in case any of you get the chance to hear him speak about it, but what was obvious when he spoke about the reading afterwards was that he didn’t condone his character’s actions at all.

 He reads this excerpt at schools and to teenagers at risk, and there are various reactions to his words. This guides how he structures his conversation with the teens as some of them recognise the MCs actions were wrong, while other relate strongly to the character. 

It made me think about author motivation and reader interpretation of stories. Authors are storytellers and their characters are instruments in the process.

In some instances it can be quite clear that the character’s traits and views are not a reflection of author’s views. Other time it’s more subtle and it’s not so clear.  

If a character displays prejudice (whether it be sexism or racism or any other ism), this may be simply part of the storytelling process. Characters need to be flawed. Characters need to be reflective of the variety of views in society and it’s okay for a main character to have a view that’s politically incorrect or deemed as ‘wrong’ in society.  

But at the same time, authors should look to avoid stereotyping, especially with antagonists, and delve further into characters to give them depth.

To finish up I want to say if ever you get the chance to listen to Paul Griffin speak, take that opportunity as he is amazing to listen to.

Disclaimer: This post is not in response to any online drama, but quite simply my thoughts from listening to Paul at the dinner.

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