Fictional characters in a fictional world: Thoughts from Umberto Eco.

Umberto Eco - italian philosopher and novelist
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Today I’m having an Umberto Eco day—my mind is going in many directions. I’m reading Confessions of a Young Novelist. I’m having strong approach/avoidance about writing the blog. I vowed to myself to write a blog a week.

Here are some quotes that started my mind going at 6 AM:

To be permanently emotionally involved with the inhabitants of a fictional possible world, we must satisfy two requirements: (1) we must live in the fictional possible world as if in an interrupted daydream, and (2) we must behave as if we were one of the characters.

The compelling nature of the great tragedies stems from the fact that their heroes, instead of escaping an atrocious fate, plunge into the abyss—which they have dug with their own hands—because they have no idea what awaits them; and we, who clearly see where they are headed so blindly, cannot stop them.

Fictional characters live in an incomplete—or, to be ruder and politically incorrect—handicapped  world.

But when we truly understand their fate, we begin to suspect that we too, as citizens of the here-and-now, frequently encounter our destiny simply because we think of our world in the same way that fictional characters think of theirs. Fiction suggests that perhaps our view of the actual world is as imperfect as the view that fictional characters have of their world. This is why successful fictional characters become supreme examples of the “real” human condition.

I’ll leave you to ponder.

2 thoughts on “Fictional characters in a fictional world: Thoughts from Umberto Eco.

  1. I’ve been pondering much of this lately myself. Wondering how I can successfully create compelling characters, knowing what I know, and knowing that I can’t impart my 50 plus years experience to the various stories I write that boil downto 2 hour movies….

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  2. Yes, but you can impart that experience…just succinctly. The background character development doesn’t necessarily appear in the script but the knowledge of that background may deliver a line that no other character would say. I’m a firm believer in the background work that goes into developing a story before actually beginning to write. Am I missing a point?

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