Characters in books are not mere illusions. They walk among us, they whisper a word or two of advice when we are not looking, they live in our minds. Once you, my reader, reads the character, sees her thoughts... then she exists.
To all those who can really read, who can peel different layers off the many many characters, in many many books, and truly see the innate nature of that imaginary, but very real being, I propose a little something. I want to see, being in one of those experimental moods of mine (and having read Wimsatt & Beardsley's theory of reader-response criticism), if anything changes in the way you see those characters who are already on paper, if I tell you how they came into being in the first place. Do you begin to see them as shadows playing a part in a story, only keeping in mind what they stood for (as symbols) and forget how they looked, spoke or felt? Or, do you see them all the more as real, now knowing how they came to be...? Or, better yet, do you think that a word, a story, once written, a character once created, exists, and nothing the author, or the critic tells you could change the way you see the character, or what you read into a story?
For one thing, nobody, not the critics, or the author even, can tell you exactly how something in literature came about. I mean, millions of books have been written, contemplating the same... but the beauty of it is that there is no consensus (thankfully). So, what I tell you of a particular character's creation can at best only be a marginal explanation of what circumstances and destinies actually converged to create!
I am picking three characters from my novel, 'Kaleidoscopic Reflections,' for the purpose.
She was only a feeling in the beginning. Karthik's suppressed emotional tangles. An apparition of lust.
She couldn't for long remain such, she needed a name, a face, a voice, and so she became Payal.
The Shudra horse-cart driver existed since the beginning, even before I started to write the novel. He had to live in the village of Eranadu, that conservative, caste-ridden place. And the story had to begin with him...
He existed since time-immemorial, too. The story needed him to come down to earth, to share his thoughts once in a while. The narrative pleaded it. And so it was.
Now, let me know what you think.