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How to become a fictional character

Having loved poor old January , here’s my idea for improving February: become fictional.

Characters in novels aren’t mooching, bored, or apathetic - unless they’ve accidentally wandered into modernist lit and/or they’re a bit French. Fictional folks have adventures, intense experiences, they grow and learn.

First things first: I wannabe the main character. Otherwise I’ll only have one defining feature, won’t get to say much all month, and will disappear for days or weeks at a time. Becoming an antihero is tempting, a few weeks of moral dubiety, but as its my first time being fictional I’ll play it safe and plump for being a hero.

Second things second: some genres are out. I’m too squeamish for horror, too Council-employed for crime, too devoted for romance, I'd struggle with the controls on scifi and I lack the armoury and enormous bosom for fantasy. So, I’ll aspire to literary, wish for a bit of magic realism while being open to the possibility of action, adventure, cowboys, thrills and mystery. That, after all, is the point of becoming fictional.

'Yeehaw!' says Gonzo, my creative brain.

'Why not just wear pants on your head?' says Sniffy Neg, my inner critic.

Here’s what I need to get started:

  • A sudden sense of dissatisfaction or unease about my situation. ('Well it is a bit rubbish,' says Sniffy Neg.)

  • An object, a goal of great importance to me and of interest to others. ('Treasure-secrets-prizes-supermagicalpowers!' says Gonzo.)

  • Misguided optimism. (Gonzo curtsys.)

  • Someone or something working against me achieving my object. ('I could do with some company,' says Sniffy Neg.)

  • An overlooked or doubted competency, (Sniffy Neg snorts, 'Knowing the words to 1980s ads does not count.')

  • A character flaw ('Can I pick my favourite?' says Gonzo).

I don't need Sniffy Neg to tell me that living the life of a fictional character will have its challenges:

  • There’ll only be a few other characters in my world; I won’t interact with anybody else.

  • Everything I say will have to be pertinent and pithy, or at least funny and must always sound like something only I'd say.

  • Each decision, reaction, mood must be a logical consequence of what just happened, but still feel genuine.

  • My activities must be illuminating, intriguing or exciting. If I can’t manage that, then I’ll have to gloss them with internal monologue, flashbacks or concocted coincidences.

  • When I travel anywhere, it will either be instantaneous or dangerous.

  • I won’t know if I’m in a tragedy until the final third.

As well as the escapades, there loads of upsides : being rooted for by invisible observers, helpful interventions from kindly strangers, weather that matches my temper and a building sense of purpose and possibility. Huzzah!

To business. Gonzo: who am I, what do I want, and what will I do?

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