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Some interesting quotes from Simon Morden

This is taken from a lecture he gave on the "problem with Christian fiction", which you can read at this webpage. It has a lot of interesting things in it, but I thought that this section had a bearing on something I was discussing with lisapt.

When I create a character, I don’t tend to list a set of attributes, choose a name, and build them like I would a character in a role-playing game. Roll some dice, pick a race and a gender, pick a profession. Now, I know this is going to sound weird, but they choose me. I remember a conversation – rather, an argument – on the Subway list: one Subwayee was particularly affronted by the idea that I somehow called on my invisible friends to inhabit my books. It might affront you. But as an example, take the character of Va, the Finnish monk, from my next book, The Lost Art. He’s an incredibly complex individual – fervent to the point of fanaticism, utterly determined, single-minded in his devotion to God, yet damaged to the point of breaking by his past, which, quite literally haunts him.

Because he was his own man, and I knew him intimately, I could judge what he would do in any given situation. In the same way that you know your friends, and even closer than that, in the same way that God knows you, I could write about him in a way that made him real. Despite that The Lost Art was not originally Va’s story, it was Va who sold the book for me. A bald, scarred, Orthodox monk bordering on the psychotic became the reason I was taken on by one of Britain’s most respected publishers. And I had all sorts of problems with the rest of the characters: two of them fell in love without telling me first. Some of them dredged courage from the depths of their hearts that I didn’t know was there. They surprised me. They took the story in directions I hadn’t anticipated. It was exciting finding out what was going to happen next.

A lot of the writers I talk to don’t know when they start, what their book is going to be like. I think, rather than this being a handicap, that it produces the creative freedom for a story to genuinely live. It’s not me moving the characters around like I’m playing some great game of cosmic chess. We imitate God the Creator, and I don’t believe God treats us like chess pieces. Why should I treat the characters in my books like that? Just as I do what I don’t want to do, and don’t do what I ought, so do they. I am not an actor, reading out someone else’s lines and following stage directions, and neither are they.

Because my characters live independently in my imagination, it becomes foolish, if not futile, to deliberately cram in a message. I would find myself frustrated at every turn. Winston Smith and Montag explored their worlds, lived and loved and cried and bled in them. The message comes through the way they live their lives. I don’t need to tell you that we have a very real and present model for that.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 3rd, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)
Wow. Thanks, this is great. Maybe it will help treetown understand why I don't really know what is going on until I write it.
Jul. 3rd, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for the link to that article.
Awesome quotes:
Good writing is not safe.
I tried to make my story christian, but the pages got wet when I baptised it.

I'm still laughing over that last one. I'd never heard of this fellow before, but now I have to find some of his stuff to read. He likes the same authors I do, and I swear I've had this rant before. Plus, his name is easy to remember even if it is one I associate with a head on a pike ; ) (Vir waving up at Morden's head in Season 4? of Babylon 5 for those who don't know the weirdo reference.)
Jul. 3rd, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC)
I picked up "The Lost Art" at Borders a couple of weeks ago. Once Bruce is finished with it, you can borrow it. It's the one he's talking about with the Finnish monk Va in it. I love how he gives us three viewpoints for the story at first and we really don't know which one is the hero and which one is the villain until about 300 pages in.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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