Book Review · March '17

The Sims and Book Writing – What are the defaults?

I have dabbled in the art of writing, but mostly I have dabbled in the art of playing The Sims. What do these two have in common? They are both about creating characters. You Sims3_Plumbobget free range with both of these to create whoever you like, they can look however you want them to. So this brings me to the big question – what is the default?

I myself have brown hair, brown eyes and generally rather dark features, I am curvy and of average height and I am white. When I make a character I usually like them to look like me, because I usually project my life onto theirs. Obviously this makes my Sims games absolutely riveting…

But my point is that the first person I go to create is always some version of me, of perhaps me with slight enchantments to reflect who I would most like to be. I can’t be the only one who does this right?

I wonder in what way this influences how I imagine the characters I read about. There has been a lot of controversy around what the default is, for example it has been criticised that the default has become white and straight. Personally I am always keen for character descriptions to be at the start of the book so that I can imagine them how the author has intended. Sometimes though it isn’t until half way through a book that you learn a key physical feature of a character. Of course this doesn’t matter to the story, but it means I have to change the image of the character that I have in my head.

If you have no description, how do you imagine a character? Are they usually just a reflection of the author, or are they a conformity to a certain cliche of society? Is there really a default? I think this is a hard subject to talk about when I partially fall into what the accused default is, I don’t want to be blinded to other cultures and societies and I would like to think that I am not. Through writing my own book I have made sure to include a diverse range of characters and not stick to the ‘default’.

The discussion of this in YA recently has made me much more aware as to how I portray my characters. Of course it is okay to project myself onto my main character, after all, I am the writer, I can create whoever I want. But it is also immensely important to include diversity in books so that hopefully one day it becomes unneeded to have this debate.

I hope I have approached this in the correct way, it is something I thought was interesting to discuss, but of course I didn’t want to offend! So let me know, do you have a default, how vividly do you imagine the characters you read about?


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