Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly discussion feature where I tackle various book and blogging related topics. I had to skip this feature earlier this month because I didn’t have time to get to it, but this topic has been bouncing around in my brain for a while and is finally demanding I give it proper attention.
The first time I started questioning whether an author could be wrong about their own character is when J.K. Rowling and Emma Watson had a joint discussion early last year where they both indicated that Harry was more compatible with Hermione and questioned whether Ron could make Hermione happy. You can read the interview here if you want it in full context. My immediate reaction was defensive because Ron has always been one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. I’ve always felt he was highly underrated and really got the short end of the stick in the movies. And to be perfectly honest, I happen to think J.K. Rowling is wrong, which brings up the following questions:
Can a character be bigger than their creator? Can an author be distracted or influenced by different story lines or a movie’s portrayal of their work and forget who their characters are? Are an author’s thoughts about his or her characters the finally word? Can you argue that readers sometimes know better than the authors when it comes to certain characters?
The Harry Potter series is arguably the most popular fictional books in history. Everybody knows HP even if they’ve never read or seen the movies. This fantasy series has had a profound effect on readers around the world (this one included). I’m convinced that in fifty years, Harry Potter will continue to influence young readers. For all these reason, I believe the series has become greater than its creator. I’m one of those readers who chooses not to read those interviews with J.K. Rowling where she drops a bombshell about certain characters. Once upon a time I might have craved these little tidbits of information, but now I feel that these revelations can sometimes spoil the way I feel about certain characters, or I feel there isn’t any real reason to “reveal” these things if Rowling never found it pertinent to do so in the seven books she wrote. I respect her right to say what she wants about the series she created, but I also have the right to respectfully turn the other way when she does.
Recently, I read a book in a series and found it difficult to swallow how the author portrayed a certain character because it was incongruent with their previous behavior and personality. I’ve gone from accepting that this is how the author would like to write this character from now on and it’s not for me to say differently to being extremely upset that this character (who happens to be a favorite of mine) was butchered and cast aside, not because their arc called for it but because the author would rather focus on a different character instead! I won’t say who I’m talking about or what series they are from because of spoilers, but if you are super curious, feel free to DM on Twitter and I’ll let you know to whom I am referring.
It’s hard to know whether or not I’m overreacting. I know some people believe that an author has absolute authority over their creations and I, as a reader, must accept how they choose to depict certain characters as an accurate account of who these characters are. Logically this makes perfect sense (maybe), but the emotional part of me, the part of me that feels too much for fictional characters says that if you write a character correctly their personalities will at the very least be consistent throughout the book or series and if you choose to explore a different route, you should actually take the time to tell their story rather than play puppet master. And after all, authors are only human, they can make mistakes, be influenced by outside (or inside) forces and fumble occasionally when it comes to their characters. And maybe, just maybe, in cases like these readers sometimes know these characters better than the authors.
I also understand that this may be opening a can of worms. If an author isn’t allowed to write their characters the way they want to without being criticized by their readers for everything they deem “out of character”, then what is the point of them writing at all? Then again, as a reader and especially as a blogger, we are supposed to look at books critically. Just because we didn’t write the novel, doesn’t mean we aren’t entitled to our own opinions.
What do you think? Do you believe an author has complete authority or can characters become bigger than their creators? What do you do when you don’t like the way an author writes one of your favorite characters? Let’s discuss in the comments!