Authors and Characters

I’ve just come back from watching “Saving Mr. Banks,” which is loosely based on the story behind Walt Disney essentially wooing P.L Travers into allowing him to make the movie, “Mary Poppins.”  While I did love the movie (and the actors), I couldn’t stop thinking about the situation from the author’s perspective.

1.  For the love of characters

Throughout the movie, “Saving Mr. Banks,” Mrs. Travers (as she prefers to be called) is a bit prickly about screen writers and Disney messing with her beloved characters, referring to her fictional creations at one point as “family.”  While the film extrapolates on her true meaning behind calling the characters “family,” I think a great many authors view their characters in a similar light.

I recently finished a rough draft of a novel (yay!),  which I enjoyed writing very much.  But upon completion of it, I was a little sad.  I had grown to really like my characters and their misadventures.  As I’m not the type to write series, this will be the only book with these fictional beings that I had so much fun creating.  Ugh, what will I do now?

Well, first I will edit and with that comes a can of worms that all authors who hope to be published must face at some point: sharing your work with others.  And <gasp>, being open to criticisms on our beloved characters.  People may view Mrs. Travers in “Saving Mr. Banks” as being overly sensitive for her many objections in the creation of Disney gold, but I think that most authors (as we have sensitive souls) would feel similarly when seeing their creations at the hands of others.  And also gasping in disbelief when others imagine them in a way that we did not intend.  (Dammit, her hair is BROWN, not light brown!)

But the movie also taught a valuable lesson to the sensitive and somewhat protective author in me –  sometimes it is best to heed the advice of other people.  After all, while P.L. Travers was quite annoyed with many aspects of the Disney production of her books, the movie’s characters went on to become beloved legends for children and adults everywhere.  Not too shabby by anyone’s standards.

2. The urge to link an author or his/her life with their work

Ah, now this part makes me annoyed.  There is a tendency among readers to try to link the characters or plot of a book with the author’s life.  Many people assume that writers follow the old adage of “write what you know.”  So therefore, most works are semi-autobiographical, right?

<Groan>  No.  While there are many authors who have characters inspired by real people or plot lines that they’ve actually lived through, the majority of fiction novels is exactly that – fiction.  Why should that make a story or an enigmatic character less amazing?  No one is being duped, as the stories aren’t being sold as non-fiction.  And yet, people love to puzzle through works of fiction to find secret glimpses into an author’s life.

Granted, for the most part, I read smut filled romance novels – so do I really want to wonder about the author’s motivation for particular scenes, characters, and plot lines?  No.  (side note: ewww)

Personally, I take fiction for what it is listed as and enjoy it as such.  The imagination is an amazing thing, never limited by the restraints of the real world – that is what makes escaping into a fantasy world (or creating one) so magical and fun.

Fiction is meant to be fictional, and that’s okay with me.  🙂

By the way, if you love “Mary Poppins” or Disney in general, you should definitely go see “Saving Mr. Banks.”  It’s a great balance of funny, sweet, sadness, and overcoming obstacles.  I now have the overwhelming urge to pop my copy of “Mary Poppins” into the DVD player and sing along (even if I do sing off-key).


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