I was stunned. “What?”
“You must be so glad Pavarotti’s dead”, he repeated.
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s obvious you don’t like him,” my friend said.
“Oh, I see …”
One of my stories in 44 Cemetery Road is “A Labour Day Weekend”. It’s about two friends who head off to Melaka and they bring home something quite disturbing …
In the story I wrote:
“… I chose the best time to ask her which was after our girls had gone to bed and she was enjoying her nightly cup of Camomile tea listening to Pavarotti. I sat quietly, pretending to enjoy the opera singer’s pompous bellowing … “
My friend thus concluded that I disliked the Luciano Pavarotti who died in September 2007. Although not my favourite opera singer, I certainly enjoy his singing and I do not dislike him or his voice. And I was definitely NOT glad that the great opera singer is dead.
“So why did you write that?” asked my friend.
And here’s the main point: A character’s views and ideas are not necessarily the same as the author’s.
These views can include all kinds of things: general attitudes, politics, tastes in music, favourite foods, favourite books, religion, prejudice etc etc.
An author creates characters to populate the story. Some are minor, some are major characters. The characters need to have their own characteristics. Some shared by the author, some not. So just because a character holds a certain point of view doesn’t mean that viewpoint is shared by the author. In many cases, it might be the exact opposite!
One good exercise I reckon is to write about a character that is totally opposite from yourself. This necessarily means you’ll have to know about your own self, your tastes, your thoughts, your motivations, your prejudices – your internal life.
That’s a hard one. Do you really know yourself?