Narrative Focus

No matter how great or creative an author is, there is one trait about their writing styles that is very hard to shake off, and will determine the kinds of stories they write, and that is the things they deem important.

As an author, you’ve probably created a vast number of characters of all different sorts: male and female, strong and weak, but if you look back at your own characters and compare them with other people, you may find that it’s still easy to tell which characters were created by you and which were by others, because certain aspects of the characters are viewed as more important. For example, some person may emphasise a lot on appearance, and puts a lot of focus on defining his characters’ looks — aquiline nose, big eyes, and write a lot of detail into his clothing. Another person may believe that everyone in this world is always out to grab every opportunity that life throws at them, and therefore all his characters are successful in some way — they take charge of their lives, they seize opportunities that come their way.

A good author is supposed to be able to observe the people around him and use them as source material for his stories, but the fact remains that we see the world in our own eyes, with our own values and biases. Even as we observe a person’s actions, we justify them using our own reasoning, and dismiss the things we don’t understand. My stories touch very lightly, if at all, on technical details and logical processes, because I am bad at technical stuff and don’t know a lot of the terms. It’s not that I wish to leave that part out, but I just cannot think of how to do it convincingly.

Of course, this is what authors consider their “niche”. If you suck at writing about real life, stick to science fiction. That is all well and good, but you’ll find that even in your sci-fi stories your characters are different from other science fiction stories. Your characters may say snarkier things because that’s how you view the world, or they may not talk at all because you wouldn’t talk if you were in their situation. Our characters are a lot more like us than we think, and even if we try not to, we do sub-consciously make them act like how we would act. It is just a matter of us having incomplete understanding of the world.

And this is fascinating to me. It’s fascinating how far our empathy for other people can extend. Does the ability to make varied characters make us a more empathetic person, better able to step into the shoes of others? If we make a character that’s supposed to be just like ourselves, how similar will he be to what others perceive of others? In a way, stories are like us seeking an alternative life, and can tell a lot about the person himself, even if he tries not to make the character like him.

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