Seems I’ve heard a bit about this topic again, lately. Which led me to re-read Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Which works because he’s got a new Lecter book coming out soon, although I don’t know that I’ll bother to get it in hardback.
Everyone familiar with Silence of the Lambs? The book, or the movie?
See, here’s the thing. When Hannibal came out, ten years or so ago now, there was this big uproar from a lot of people because of the ending. I don’t know how to do that nifty invisible writing thing in case there’s someone out there who hasn’t read it, but honestly? It’s been ten years. If you were going to read it, you would have, right?
So in the ending of Hannibal, Hannibal Lecter and Clairce Starling end up together. As in, together, like a romantic, sexual relationship.
Personally, I thought it was a great ending. I thought it was perfect. I thought the signs were all there in Silence and in Hannibal. It was a perfect progression of character.
But it seemd a lot of people thought it was terrible. Jodie Foster, for example. She refused to do the movie of Hannibal because of the ending. Then the producers of the film changed the ending, anyway. Why? Because Jodie didn’t think Clarice would “do that”.
Ummm…Jodie? Clarice isn’t yours. You didn’t invent her. You interpreted someone else’s words. You interpreted what Thomas Harris chose to reveal about his character.
The only person in the world, the only existing person, who truly knows what Clarice Starling would and would not do is Thomas Harris. Clarice belongs to him.
No, we can’t make our characters do things they don’t want to do. We can try, but it feels forced. It reads wrong. We don’t invent people and take them through their little imaginary paces, hitting points A and B as the story dictates. They grow and change on their own.
But the fact is, they’re ours. We know those little characters better than anyone else in the world. Sometimes we hold things back from the reader, because they don’t need to know it, but we know it. I know the heroine in my current WIP once had a guy in high school pretend he really liked her, and she knew it was a lie, but she went along with it for a while simply because she wanted to see what it was like to actually have people talk to her like she was a person and not a freak. Maybe I’ll decide to let the readers know. Maybe it won’t come up. But I know it. She told me, and now I keep her secret, and if later she sees one of those kids and decides to have her bodyguards beat the hell out of him–well, some might say it’s out of character for her.
But I know some cuts don’t ever stop bleeding.
What secrets have your characters told you? And what do you think about people who claim some characters “wouldn’t do that”?