"Most of the time, the characters who appear in my novels naturally emerge from the flow of the story. I almost never decide in advance that I’ll present a particular type of character. As I write, a kind of axis forms that makes possible the appearance of certain characters, and I go ahead and fit one detail after another into place, like iron scraps attaching to a magnet. And in this way an overall picture of a person materializes. Afterward I often think that certain details resemble those of a real person, but most of the process happens automatically. I think I almost unconsciously pull information and various fragments from the cabinets in my brain and then weave them together." -- Haruki Murakami
Reading fiction is one of my favorite pastimes, and Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors, so I was fascinated to read his account of how he creates his characters. I find it hard to imagine myself into his brilliant brain or into the process he describes. In the article, titled "Where My Characters Come From: I don't choose them, they choose me," published last week in The Atlantic, he reveals a situation that's totally beyond me -- and fascinating, especially observations like this:
"When a novel is on the right track, the characters take on a life of their own, the story moves forward by itself, and the novelist ends up in a very happy situation, just writing down what he sees happening in front of him. And sometimes a character takes the novelist by the hand, leading the way to an unexpected destination."
|Editions of Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase, which I've enjoyed reading more than once.|
In his article, Murakami describes how his feelings about people contribute to his creativity with the characters in his novels, and how his process evolved over decades of writing novels. To me, this is amazing. In his early novels, for example, he wrote in the first person, and he mainly did not give names to his characters:
"Why couldn’t I give them actual names? I don’t know the answer. All I can say is that I felt embarrassed about assigning people names. I felt that somebody like me endowing others (even characters I made up) with names seemed kind of phony. Maybe in the beginning I felt embarrassed, too, by the whole act of writing novels. It was like laying my naked heart out for everyone to see."
Murakami talks in detail about some of his books and how the characters came to life while he was writing. I can't imagine ever being able to do what he does, despite the fact that he writes some of his article as advice to aspiring writers. I find it exciting to read what he says, and impossible to imagine doing it. I'm in the middle of reading Dickens' David Copperfield, which has scores of vivid characters, and I wonder if Dickens' experience in writing was anything like the process Murakami documents here.
I especially liked Murakami's final sentence:
"Whenever I begin writing a new novel, I get excited, wondering what kinds of people I’m going to meet next."
I'm looking forward to reading whatever novel this process will bring next!
Blog post © 2022 mae sander
I think I've been saving to read this author for a long time. But when I do I'd like to start with Norwegian Wood. I hope it'll be one I can understand.
I have not read anything by Murakami. I will see if my library has A Wild Sheep Chase. They are many book characters that I enjoy, off the top of my head I would say all the characters in the Louise Penny books. Take care, enjoy your day!
I think I need to adjust my reading list to include this author. You always speak so highly of the writing.
Thanks for the suggestion about a noodle kugel onmy blog. I have made the noodle kugel from Moosewood cookbook years back and it was delicious!
Murakami has an incredible imagination for characters and plot. I think I need to read this article.
I have never read any of his novels (I am ashamed to admit that here). I know readers are obsessed with his works.
This is so fascinating that he doesn't plot his characters before he starts writing.
I like me a good murder mystery! Especially a series!
Ooh, this is wonderful! He's definitely my favorite Japanese author, but I had not heard of this article, thanks!
It reminds me, I forgot that Novelist as a Vocation was just (re)published a week ago!
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