Today is the birthday of one of the first original characters I created. I’ll always remember it because I gave him a birthday that also belongs to a couple of other people I know/know of. His name is James (Jamie) Stevens and if he were a real person he would be seventeen.
Fictional characters are really important, some people may believe otherwise but in a world full of television, films and books, we are surrounded by them. Whether you barely watch television and films or read books or watch and read as much as feasibly possible, everyone is exposed to the weird and wonderful people out there who don’t really exist.
There are many characters, though, who people relate to. There are characters that people fall in love with, want to hug, and even slap. Everywhere you turn there are villains, heroes and the average Joe Bloggs going about their fictional lives. You just have to browse Twitter, Facebook or various social networking sites that are frequented by fandoms.
A character isn’t just a person who doesn’t exist, they’re the capacity for our lives to become richer, the opportunity for us to see the world through new eyes and experience it as someone else. Sometimes we might wish we’d done something or wish we hadn’t done something and being able to see it happen to someone we effectively care about makes characters so important.
I love fictional characters a lot, whether I created them or someone else has.
I think that when you create a character you experience them in a different way to the people watching/reading about them. You know everything about them, their ins and outs, the good and the bad and you know more than you may ever share with the rest of the world. You reach a point with that character where maybe you don’t like certain things about them, but you accept that it’s part of them regardless.
When you fall in love with a fictional character, it’s very easy to ignore the bad parts. I see people all over the internet completely oblivious that the flaws in some of their favourite characters and I suppose it’s natural. It’s human nature to ignore the flaws in someone who is new and exciting, whether they’re real or not. Eventually, though, you see the bad, you experience those flaws and you find a way of accepting them. If you can’t then you move on and find someone else to care about, or you love them even more in spite of who they’re not.
That’s something I love dearly about fictional worlds and the characters within them, their capacity to be exactly like people in the real world. If you’re the kind of person who puts their heart and soul into fiction then you experience character’s stories through their eyes and it hurts when someone dies or bad things happen. It’s almost an acceptable level of pain, even if you’re sobbing your eyes out over a terrible fictional death. Most of the time, it’s got that level of distance where although you loved that character a lot, life goes on and they’re not actually real.
As a writer, my favourite thing is putting my characters through hell. In his fictional lifetime (which goes on beyond this current year right into Jamie’s adulthood) Jamie Stevens went through a lot. When he was a small child he was kidnapped by his biological father, his mother had children with his step-dad and a beloved friend died. All in a day’s work for a writer, but it’s all experiences that made him who he is today, or will be tomorrow.
Even if he isn’t real he’s still my first proper fictional character and I will always cherish the moments I shared with him. It’s weird, really, because I’ve not thought about him in a long time. His story has never gone further than a drawer in my old bedroom or a file on a floppy disc drive that I eventually transferred over to a newer computer. It doesn’t need to. Nobody needs to know what happened to Jamie Stevens because he’s my character. Maybe one day I’ll bring him out to play, give him a new life where things happen differently and he’s given a new lease of life. Or maybe he’ll stay in that drawer never to be seen again.
That doesn’t mean I’ll stop thinking about him every time September 16th comes around. I can’t help it. Like any fictional person to have meant something to me, he’s there on the cusp of my life. A bit like the many people who have come and gone from my real life.