Monday, March 23, 2015

Meeting Your Fictional Character In The Real World

There she is, sitting right there in the corner of the café. My fictional character come to life! What would you do? Would you walk up to her and tell her that? "Excuse me, but I invented someone exactly like you in one of my books!"

This happened to me in a café not long ago. I saw a girl walk in whose physical appearance resembled a character in a manuscript of mine. But as I surreptitiously watched her at her seat across the room, it gradually dawned on me why a fictional character of mine had come to life. The conclusion came into focus like a photograph slowly developing into view at the bottom of a tray of chemicals.

I learned from that real person that my fictional character was nothing but a stereotype, and a lot of women could walk in the door and resemble my fictional character. The more I thought about it, the more I understood that I hadn't really invented a three-dimensional person in the fictional sense, in the way an author like Charles Dickens created "real" characters.

Yes, I had met my fictional creation in the real world, but it was nothing extraordinary, because a lot of women fit the description of my character, and seeing someone with those attributes in close proximity to me was no cause for great excitement. Instead, I felt deflated since I knew I had merely sketched a rough stereotype in my manuscript that needed fleshing out so that she would become something much more unique and rare and lifelike, and reducing the chance that she would stroll in the door of my café.

And it caused me to realize I need to read some Dickens novels to see how he accomplished that, and what can I learn about creating realistic fictional people from him. And it all started because some woman walked into a café and reminded me of a fictional person I described in a manuscript.

But without question you could meet not just an adumbrated stereotype, but your thoroughly-described three-dimensional fictional character in the real world. In my mind, that's within the realm of possibility because if you describe a fictional person with enough detail, someone in this world of 6 billion people likely possesses all those attributes. We know all the variations of possibility. And the likelihood is great that someone somewhere possesses all those attributes that you gave to your character. What is implausible is you and that real person meeting at the same time and the same place.

A Brief "Whiff" of the Future

But it is much more likely—even a guaranteed certainty—that you would meet your fictional creation if you have, unknown to you, described someone you will meet in the future, and your mind subconsciously has already seen the details of that person in a phenomenon I'll call a "whiff of the future." It seems in accord with the idea among some physicists that time is circular and not simply linear. Einstein said the past, present and future overlap and exist simultaneously but in different distant locations. ("The distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion.").  I think there are forces at work which we don’t understand that can cause you to describe a real person you don’t know and haven’t met—but will in the future.

You access a brief "whiff" of the future—a meeting with a woman in a café—and you write about her based on that future information. And when the time comes that you meet her in the here and now, you see she is exactly as you imagined her because you did see her in that brief "whiff" of the future. Well, I'll leave it for the physicists to decide if this scenario is possible.

I've felt this brief "whiff" of the future that subsequently became reality several times, and my theory is that if I've felt it, so have others. I suppose it's something like "reverse deja vu," in that you feel something that will happen rather than think you're experiencing something that already happened in the past.

Suppose you did see someone who resembled your fictional creation down to the last detail—even the clothes she wears, and the handbag she carries. What would you do? Introduce yourself and tell her about it? Schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist? Write a blog post about it?

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