Writer’s Ramble: On the Reality of Fictional Characters

For reasons I’m not quite sure of, the late, once great Mass Effect franchise has been on my mind lately. I’m not here to lament the decline and, essentially, the destruction of a great franchise and setting–the Mass Effect universe is second only to my own sci-fi universe in my list of fictional sci-fi universes in which I might enjoy living–but as a series that had a major impact on me as a creator, as a writer, and has provided me with a lot of enjoyment over the years. More specifically, while watching some videos of character moments from the games, it really felt like I was reminiscing about good times with friends that I am sadly no longer in touch with. And it got me thinking big again, about how and why these characters were so well realized that they felt real, and more, about just what exactly makes something real.

While obviously Mass Effect, and every other work of fiction out there, is, in fact, fiction to us, can those universes, those characters, be real in some sense?  In this, I have to go back to that post I wrote a while back about my approach to creating my characters and universe, putting myself in the place of G-d. To the Creator of us and our world, surely there is a similar perspective difference. To Him, a being not bound by space and time, we are also “fictional.” Nothing we do can affect Him, and He does not need us.

Similarly, nothing fictional characters do in their universes can actually impact our world, and we do not “need” them either. But to them, the people and things around them are real. Their relationships, in the works they are a part of, are real. And, for us, the consumers of fiction, when characters are well crafted and genuine, we can allow them to impact us in some way, and to see them as real, despite knowing that in our universe they are not.

According to the multiverse theory, there are an infinite number of possible alternate universes out there. What is to say that through the act of creating our fictional characters and worlds, we are not creating something that exists out there, somewhere. Call it a silly sentiment, but I think it would be a positive thing for creators of all stripes, from writers to film-makers, and beyond, to treat their characters as people. It will likely help write people that seem more real, and give them the respect they deserve. (Unless, of course, one wants to embrace a more malevolent “godlike” role of a being messing with people, but I think it is far healthier, and more positive, to treat one’s characters with some level of respect.)

This is yet another reason why I can comfortably promise that I won’t force messaging or “diversity” into stories where they don’t belong. To do so would, to one degree or another, require a creator to artificially adjust the people I have created, which makes them mere tools. This is why I will never be an author who kills off characters for shock value, or for the sake of “grittiness.” The characters, the people, I create deserve to matter, and deserve to be accorded respect by me.

So, in the, admittedly, unlikely event that those characters that have inspired me are out there, somewhere, here’s to you: I hope you find meaning and happiness. And to my characters, know always that there is a larger plan, and that everything is done for a reason, even if you are not able to see or understand it yet. All will be made clear, eventually.

You can join the wonderful inhabitants of the Galaxy Ascendant today, by checking out A Greater Duty, book 1 in the Galaxy Ascendant series. Book 2, A Looming Shadow, will be out in under two weeks.

Also, signing up for my mailing list will grant you access to free short fiction, almost all of it set in the Galaxy Ascendant as well, for now, at least.

Keep an eye on this space for more to come later in the week!

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