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Jonathan Franzen discusses his new book

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Best-selling author Jonathan Franzen discusses his long-awaited fourth novel, Freedom.

I thought his views on how he relates to his subject and his characters might interest us.

My apologies for the awful Aussie accent of the presenter. (I have to live with these people.) :hug:

I hope this link and its video is available for outside Australia.

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I found the interview very interesting (and I had no problem understanding the interviewer, Des). It's a well-spent 15 minutes. Jonathan Franzen spent much of his time discussing characters and characterization. He made an interesting point that when he completes a novel he puts the characters behind him and essentially forgets about them. I never thought about that before, and I now realize that I do the same thing. I wonder how many authors here at AD do the same, how many mentally revisit their authors, and how many reuse characters in other stories.

Colin :hug:

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I very much do that. I create characters to serve in my stories, giving them personalities and attitudes that support what I'm writing. I become close to these guys, and they even 'talk' to me a bit, but when the story is over, they are put to bed with it.

Obviously, this isn't true of authors who write sequel novels. But I don't do that, preferring a clean slate when I start off. I think it's more fun that way, being able to create new main characters to bring to life.


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I freely admit that my reason for writing is somewhat, philosophical. So I write stories which have a message but with an overriding aim to entertain. It is the entertainment objective which serves to give birth to the characters. The philosophy is a driving force, but the characters are created to entertain, to make the message accessible to the reader; to involve the reader in a rational emotion.

I wonder just how much the idea of a story 'writing itself' is really a methodology which assists the creative flow of the author. In my case I remain fairly aloof from the characters I create or write about, simply because, whilst they remain personable and entertaining, they are really the vehicles for the story telling, for conveying the message, as such I manipulate them to serve the philosophic and dramatic objective. However, it is paramount to emphasise that the character must primarily have entertainment value, anywhere from comedic to dramatic, which might even be in opposition to the philosophy.

It is this which allows a character to, for example, be understated, or be a foil to perhaps a differing view. These type of things often endear the character to the readers as well as to ourselves as authors. Moreover they enable the story to be more than just a daytime situational soap opera, in that it becomes a debatable argument of the human condition, whilst simultaneously offering an escape from, and understanding of, that condition's more disturbing and enlightening aspects.

Of course trying to incorporate philosophical values in a story is fraught with dangers of boredom or pontification, but the alternative is either pulp fiction, or sentimental writing, each of which have their own values of escapism.

Notwithstanding the above, I often find it difficult to adhere to these ideas in my own writing, but that is what makes it uniquely my own. :hug:

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