Can Writers have a God Complex?

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Sam,

I thought of a notion that writers, any artist really, could envision their characters becoming self aware. Characters who realized there is this being above the page that fished them out of their imagination and decided they were worthy spending countless hours of editing and devotion to create.

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Me at Sterling Castle’s Great Hall, Scotland

The question can be expanded to is it possible for a writer to accomplish this? We are, for the most part, a timid lot and not really wired to be too cocky or self-absorbed. It is fair to put this god complex for writers to the test. We do not naturally gravitate to seek those who would praise or worship us. Ask yourself, would you want your characters to worship you, or would you want to create a story in which your characters worshiped you? In reality, they are your creation. You have every right to seek out appreciation for working to molding each individual into three dimensions, giving them lives to inform and entertain audiences the world over. However, is this the proper appreciation you would want?

Conceptually, it sounds nice. You picture yourself seated on a throne of mahogany and marble (or maybe the Iron Throne, dealer’s choice), listening to  some epic in your name (for me, the House of Cards theme), and watching your characters approach you to pay homage to your power and majesty. Pictured it? Looks like the kind of thing you could get used to right?….

…right?

I’ve daydreamed about being some victorious conqueror, marching into the city with the masses cheering for my benevolent takeover. However, when the music stops, and I go to class or work, the rug is pulled out from my feet. I realize no one, even a creator, should be set above the rest that much.

Think about your parents. Technically, the only reason you’re here is because of them. They’re your creators. Do you worship them? No. You don’t bow to a small statue of them by your bedside every time you wake or sleep;  you don’t always follow their wisdom without question. But they’re responsible for your life, breathing, eating, thinking…right?

Same thing can be said about you and your characters. (They may be fictitious, but there you are.)

Rather, you want to sit down with your parents, maybe have a drink, and argue about politics because you decided not to follow their beliefs. You want to protest when they bring up embarrassing stories when your girlfriend/boyfriend visits on the holiday. You’d want to relate to your “creators” and see them as people you could care about, not some ethereal presence apart from you. Wouldn’t you want the characters of your stories to go to a pub and have a pint with you instead of looking down on them from ten feet atop your throne? I know I would. I’d wanna laugh, debate, tussle and appreciate the fact I may have born them from my imagination, but they have become their own person, acquired their own identity as life(story) took its paces.

For fun, I looked up if anyone else had similar thoughts as I on writers and god complexes. Turns out some have. One person in particular, K. M. Weiland, whom I have read before, had some interesting things to say about this topic:

This is one of the most fantastic paradoxes of the writing life: we
strive to present reality, but really we are controlling reality. […]It’s
in our power to decide which characters die and which characters live.
[…] I can’t help seeing the parallels between a writer mapping out the
destinies of his little world and God organizing the much grander cos-
mos. […] It’s an interesting exercise to look at our stories and recognize
that God wants to direct our lives in the same way we want to direct our
characters. Like our characters, we can’t see that He created us for a spe-
cial purpose, that He shoved us into unthinkable trials to mold us for
a special end. We can’t see that; but He can.

You can find the full article here.

While it sounds like a nice little comparison between us and God, there are some other factors to consider when you start talking about God’s control in our lives. I’m not too thrilled with somebody else knowing everything for me. I’d like to think I have some say in my life. Which is why I try to consider my characters’ motivations and backgrounds before developing the stories they are in. I am of the opinion that writers are not lording their power over the worlds they create, no matter how great it makes us feel. I tend to learn things from my characters I never thought I knew. I’m not the only one with all the marbles.

Writing is a way for me to see things about me I didn’t know before, not glory in the fact that all the people, the good, the bad, or the annoying, owe their existence to me. Like money, writers who seek personal satisfaction in creation leads to success but not meaningful contributions to literacy. I think we should stick to the shadows, observing and only making contact when needed. I’d rather be the one with power holding the strings than standing in the spotlight being controlled.

Cheers.

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