The German medical doctor and avocational artist, Carl Gustav Carus, wrote nine letters to an anonymous “Ernest” between 1815 and 1824. These were really letters written to himself, likely simply to express and/or refine his feelings. He published the letters in 1830.
While he was professionally a scientist, art seemed for him a form of therapy, perhaps used to help deal with the death of his son. In one of the letters Carus ruminates on the creation and meaning of art. He wrote:
“Think of fictional characters whose ideas and words, created by the poet, bring them
before us as real individuals. I know they are eternal; they exist! Achilles, Odysseus,
Hamlet, Ophelia: are not all these, as we know them, the creatures of a divine art? Is
it not as if they had walked among the living? Do we not know their thoughts and
actions as well as those of a departed friend?”
Jedediah Bazo, the protagonist in my first novel, Bazo, is a real person to me . . . much as I think of my deceased brother. For over a decade I researched and planned the book, and Jed took on a life that seemed to me as genuine as my next door neighbor. After finally penning the first chapter (the birth narrative), I sat in my chair with tears streaming down my cheeks and inwardly cheered: He’s alive!
When an author has a genuine and passionate relationship with a character, the latter comes alive for readers. It is recognizable when a writer is cranking out a story just to crank out a story . . . to keep bucks coming in. People in the novel all too often become flat, predictable, vapid . . . in short, boring.
According to Carl Carus, literary figures, done correctly, never die. They are alive!