Saving Our Characters
Is it crazy to care if a fictional character is heaven bound?
With a good novel I find myself wondering what happens after the words, “The End.” Do the characters really live happily ever after? How many children do they have? At what age do they die and how? Do they ever get bored with the mundane tasks the rest of are faced with each day? Or do they run around battling this enemy or that for the rest of their fictional lives, always finding clean underwear in their dresser drawers?
I hear you. You’re saying, “But, Sandy, he/she isn’t real, you do understand that, don’t you?” Sure I do. Sort of.
If a story and its characters are well-drawn, it’s easy to be caught up in the lives of those portrayed. Look at the appeal of soap operas. Millions follow the dysfunctional antics of a whole TV studio of imaginary people. (When was the last time you saw one of those people do the laundry?)
For years now, I’ve been a big fan of the bold and self-confident Amelia Peabody Emerson and her hilariously profane husband, Radcliffe Emerson. (If those names are not familiar, you must visit her here.) Elizabeth Peters has done such a marvelous job with her archaeologist characters–Peabody, Emerson, Ramses, Nefret, and the Master Criminal. They’re like friends I’ve known for years, and I look forward to each new book in the series.
Recently, I finished the eighteenth novel, A River in the Sky. When it opened with Emerson proclaiming that the Old Testament was “a tissue of lies from start to finish,” my heart tumbled at the reminder of the spiritual condition of this “person.”
Now, I’ve known from the beginning that Peabody professes to be a devout Christian while Emerson has no respect for any faith. But I can’t help my reaction. I suppose a good part of it is the reflexive sadness when anyone denies a faith in Jesus Christ (whether real or not). Maybe that’s why I enjoy Christian fiction. Part of the happy ending involves learning that the main characters, those we’ve come to know so well, really will live happily forever after.
Though the Amelia Peabody series is not written for the Christian market, I can always hope that by the time the last book is complete, Emerson will have made the discovery most important for all of us.
Meanwhile, the timing of this book is out of sequence from the rest. It goes back to an earlier period in the characters’ histories and takes place prior to WWI. Rather than their usual “digs” in Egypt, they are sent to Israel. But the humor and adventure continue as the Emersons and their entourage become involved with German spies, the tensions between Jews, Moslems and Christians, and of course, the discovery of at least one recently dead body.
Question: Do you ever find yourself becoming so immersed in a character’s life that you want to know their future after the last page?
That’s good writing, y’all.
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Yes!!! Hadassah and Marcus, in Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series. She didn’t leave us wondering what happened, and even outlined the remainder of their lives for us, but I just wasn’t ready to let them go!
I haven’t read that series, Heidi, but did you find her outline of the future disappointing to you in that there was nothing left to your imagination?