• Miles O'Neal

The Reality of my Fantasy

A recent Sunday NY Times column Sunday Book Review titled "Between Books" by Ann Packer contained the following bit which I found bizarre.

“Which of your characters do you like best?” they want to know, and “What do you think happened to them after the book was over?” and “Was it hard to let go of them?” Some writers can jump right into this kind of conversation. “I like all of my characters, but I really love So-and-So.”  “I think they probably moved to Carmel and bought a fixer-upper.” I can’t do this. Sometimes I hem and haw, saying, “Oh, they’re like children, you don’t have favorites, you love them all,” or “Gosh, I don’t know, what do you think?”

What I want to say is, “My characters are collections of sentences, and my feelings about them are feelings about the sentences,” and “They don’t exist past the ending of the book; even if I were to imagine them in certain situations, without the process of finding language for those situations, they — the characters and the situations — would float away.”

While my rational mind knows that her analysis is technically correct, most of me neither cares nor agrees. These are my creations! I created the world and the characters and I dwell there with them. I know them well. I have hopes for them which they sometimes fulfill and sometimes do not. Even though I theoretically know all about them and their world and could control every aspect of their lives if I wished, in reality I watch their story unfold with interest- passion, even- with joy, with sorrow, with concern, at times with anger. At the risk of sounding blasphemous (or just plain nuts), I believe I find in this just a taste of what God must feel watching us live out our lives.

Of course I'm not God, and so far as I know my creations have no tangible reality. But while I'm in a story it's real enough to me. I hope it's real for you. I hope that once you can get into my stories you also feel the joy, the sorrow, the anger, and all the rest.

An imagination is a terrible thing to waste.

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