Thursday, September 17, 2020

Characters In Isolation

I never write about characters in isolation. And I can't think about a novel that is about a character in isolation. It would be a very experimental novel. Very much a break with what we consider the novel to be doing. Generally novels are about situating characters within social settings, and obviously within initmate relationships, personal relationships and families as well. That's how I conceive of character. A character to me is someone who is engaged in one or more dynamics at a given time, and I can't actually imagine what it would be like to write about a character who was just on their own all the time.

Out-of-context commentary from Sally Rooney, author of Normal People, during a literary event at London Review Bookshop

This statement is probably true for most authors. What kind of reader wants a story about a character who's on their own all the time? It would be like reading a novel about me! Although I find myself quite entertaining, an author would probably prefer to focus more on my cat and his enemies.

That said, it is a little sad that it takes so much imagination to write about solitary characters. The not-so-normal ones.



Mei said...

Would Chuck Noland not qualify as a good candidate? Granted, he was only alone for five years but his story was interesting. Who is to say yours is not as interesting?

Zeri Kyd said...

Mei, it's true there have been the occasional novels written about people in isolation, but it's very rare. Usually when it happens the characters end up losing their minds. :-) Maybe that's what makes it interesting. I agree, though, that an interesting story could be written.

Anonymous said...

The movie “The Wall” is one of my favorites. Not sure if it’s based on a book or not. It’s a just a woman who ends up alone after an odd event. Her character narrates from her diary. I actually found the movie riveting, and it was mostly about her aloneness.