Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Are the characters in control?

If you read a lot of interviews with writers like I do, you often see writers claiming that their characters just take over sometimes as if the writer is just a medium. That’s never my experience and the mysticism of it puzzles me. So I got a chuckle when I saw this exchange with Vladimir Nabokov on the subject.

From the Paris Review interviews . . .

Interviewer: E.M. Forster speaks of his major characters sometimes taking over and dictating the course of his novels. Has this ever been a problem for you, or are you in complete command?

Nabokov: My knowledge of Mr. Forster’s works is limited to one novel, which I dislike; and anyway, it was not he who fathered that trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it is as old as the quills, although of course one sympathizes with his people if they try to wriggle out of that trip to India or wherever he takes them. My characters are galley slaves.

The whole interview is worth reading for Nabakov's combination of wit and precise language. He's relentless.

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