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 get 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?