“I always feel a little twinge of sadness when I finish reading a book—I don’t want to leave the characters or their world.”
Today I’m thrilled to welcome Mary Fan as part of Red Adept’s Artificial Absolutes Tour. She is the author of ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES and I love the post she’s sharing with us, “Different Each Time.”
Different Each Time
Every story is a million stories. The tale we see when we open a book is just a glimpse into the world that lies beyond the pages. In most books, a reader is introduced to a main character and experiences a book’s universe through his or her limited vision, seeing what they see, hearing what they hear.
Even though certain tales seem to have been told before—we’re all familiar with certain plot devices and genre tropes—they still feel like the first time each time. The story at hand is the character’s first foray into a grand and infinite realm of possibilities. Aspects of the plot or universe may be recognizable to the reader, but it’s always fascinating to watch how the character deals with them. How many retellings have there been of fairytales? How many variations are there on the classic whodunit? And yet despite the familiarity, each retelling feels new.
In a way, that’s how we perceive the real world as well. We’re only aware of a very small portion of the immediate things around us. And although we may appear to live the same lives as any other—go to school, go to work, buy the groceries, pay the bills—each commonplace event is unique to ourselves. Similarly, each recognizable retelling is unique to the characters. This Cinderella sees Prince Charming differently than the ones before; this Sherlock Holmes approaches the case in an unusual way. Even reading the same book again seems different each time—one picks up new insights, or, knowing how a situation will turn out, takes a different view on a character’s actions.
As a reader, I often feel as though I care more about how the story’s told than what the story is. I’ve been reading twist-filled thrillers long enough that almost nothing surprises me anymore, but if the characters are surprised, I nonetheless feel their shock and confusion. I also enjoy the chance to catch glimpses of the wider world they occupy—the locations they travel to, the people they meet, the objects they use. Behind each location is a history, and behind each person, a biography. Usually, the details given are just flashes of quick information, tantalizing enough to allow one to sense the greater world surrounding the main events.
As a writer, I made it my duty to know those histories and biographies even though only a few drops from that ocean of back-stories ended up in my novel. While each detail seems insignificant, the butterfly effect they have can impact the main plot.
We humans naturally crave knowledge, and I suppose those glimpses are the reason behind so many sequels and spinoffs. We want to know what the characters will do next, after the villain is in jail and the princess gets her prince. We want to get to know the quirky sidekick a little better. I always feel a little twinge of sadness when I finish reading a book—I don’t want to leave the characters or their world.
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