Judith Tittleton, the eldest child of Sir John and Lady Tittleton, is an upper-middle-class young woman living in London in the 1850s. You might know her from Christmas at the Tittletons. She is outgoing and doesn't like being cooped up or following societal traditions, but she has a solid, thoughtful brain under all of her sprightly sarcasm.
And now, I believe we have an chat to conduct.
Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining me today. Have a seat and some chocolate and tea.
Judith: Thank you, Miss Bassington-French. Quite a lovely blog you have here.
MacBeth: Chocolate? An interesting food. Thank you, Bassington-French.
Calius: Thank you.
Now that we're all settled here, let me tell you some details about this chat. Our discussion is based on the question: Should a character be realistic or relatable? MacBeth, as our guest, I'm wondering what you think about this. What sort of a character do you think you are, and what would you say is the difference between realistic and relatable?
MacBeth: How can one relate to me? I am based upon a man in history, or at least in legend, hence, I am realistic, inasmuch as there are people like me. How many have slain for a crown? But to be relatable, that is a different song. Few people find themselves in my position, for how many talk to witches and know their future?
Agreed. But don't you have characteristics that others can relate to?
MacBeth: I am ambitious, and that is relatable characteristic. Are not many folk ambitious, eager for the chance to rise higher? No wonder I am so well-known today. Many people see their worst selves reflected in me. They call me a villain, but they admire me all the same.
Judith: But Thane MacBeth, would you not say that to be relatable you must also be realistic? Are these two characteristics so very different?
MacBeth: Two different words are they, and two different definitions they must have. It seems they must be different, or we would not be discussing them so.
True. That's why I called this discussion. What do you think is the difference between the two words, Judith? Use that intelligent head of yours.
Judith: Realistic means true-to-life. A realistic character is just like a person that could walk around and talk to you. He jumps off the page.
Does he? I wonder. Think about real people, Judith. When you pass a real person walking about on your foggy London streets, do you feel that he jumps out at you? What makes him interesting? Even your own family you don't quite look at as terribly exciting, no matter how much you love them.
Judith: Well, I do love my family, and they are different, at least, slightly eccentric compared to other people I know. I don't know if they would be terribly memorable if someone met them on the street, though.
Calius: Isn't realistic depressing, though? Who wants to read about the "real world?"
MacBeth: To read of the real world is, yes, depressing, but so many people would say that I and my story are depressing.
Think about relatable, though. I know that at least two of you are readers. What characters do you relate to?
Calius: I relate to Loren D'Nore of the old legends. Even though we're so different, I know how scared she must have felt becoming a ruler so young.
But she was a girl, and she lived in a land far different from yours, and in all honesty, she is really nothing like you except that she likes to read and had no experience in ruling.
Calius: But she was manipulated by the powerful people around her. I like how she stood up to them, and sometimes it makes me feel like I can stand up to Alicia.
MacBeth: Are there no characters of fiction to which you relate, Bassington-French?
Oh, yes. I relate to Sydney Carton in Tale of Two Cities. Maybe that's why I like that book so much.
Judith: What? But he's not anything like you. That is, you aren't a drunkard, thank goodness, and you don't have unrequited love or get your head chopped off, at least not yet.
And that is a blessing. I think what I relate to most with Carton is his love of solitude. I understand that, not to mention his desire to do what is right even though he's messed up so badly before.
MacBeth: The knave is hardly realistic though. I wouldn't call any of Master Dickens' characters realistic.
Calius: Since when do you know about Dickens?
MacBeth: I've been around for quite a while, lad.
All right, guys. I will say, though, that you're right, MacBeth. Sydney Carton isn't a very realistic person, especially not in today's terms. The thing about him that is relatable is the fact that, while he is in many respects an ideological character, he reflects many traits of real people. I don't think that Sydney Carton could possibly exist as a real person, simply because he's too flat. His character is well-rounded as characters go, and he's terribly complex in the fictional world, but fictional characters entering the real world can't seem realistic because they are parts of the author's imagination.
Calius: Are you saying that it's impossible to make a totally realistic character?
Basically, yes. The best an author can hope for is a relatable character.
Judith: What about characters like me, who are based off of real people?
MacBeth: Actually, woman, I think you illustrate the author's point precisely. You were based off of a real person, but you only embody some of this person's most memorable traits. Compared to the real person, you are flat and fictional, no matter how sprightly you may seem on the page.
Calius: Miss Tittleton's traits are simple reflections of a real person's mannerisms and personality.
Judith: That sounds horrid, yet I must agree. Still, I know that people have enjoyed me as a character, just as Thane MacBeth has been enjoyed for ages.
Calius: No offense to the Thane, but I don't think that anyone would wish to be like you.
No, he's a magnification of real traits. That's what's so great about him.
Judith: Are you saying that characters in fiction are merely like insects laid under the magnification scope?
Yes, in a way. A good book is like a magnifying glass, and the characters are representations of real traits embodied in pseudo-people. That's why we recognize them.
MacBeth: Thus each fictional character is more of a caricature. Everyone recognizes a caricature, while a real face is easily lost in a crowd of others. Put on a clownish mask, though, and presto, everyone finds you!
Calius: What about me? Am I a caricature of anyone?
In a way, you are. I wrote you to be a typical younger brother at first glance, easily bullied by your older sister.
Calius: Yet I was from the older sister's perspective on both counts, seeing as you were writing from Alicia's eyes and you are an oldest sister yourself. Does that not make me less relatable, since I'm being viewed as a caricature through the eyes of a caricature?
Judith: You grow, your Majesty, and quite a bit. Your sister was sympathetic toward you, and thus wrote you less as a caricature and more as her own brother. You were real to her in her writing, even if you are only the shadow of any younger brother in real life.
MacBeth: What have we decided, then? The realistic is impossible; the relatable is possible.
Judith: Personally, I feel that the realistic is undesirable as well. I already have to live my life, and I don't want to have to read about it as well. Something relatable, though, is different because it makes me feel as though there are people like me in the world.
That's the sort of difference a reader knows by instinct, I think. Realism in a book is so annoying, but if an author can achieve relatability, that's good writing.
Thanks for reading, and God bless,