The Character, not The Author

I once read an article about George, in the Enid Blyton Famous Five books. George was a bit of hero of mine when a child. She was a girl (around 12 I think) who wanted to be a boy, cut her hair short, insisted on being called George not Georgina, and always tried to be part of the adventures. The article said that Enid Blyton had got a lot of credit for creating this almost feminist character in the 50s, but she didn’t deserve this credit because Julian, George’s cousin, once said girls shouldn’t have adventures because they would never be as good as boys, therefore Enid Blyton wasn’t a feminist at all.

Well, for a start, Julian is a humourless prig. And just because Enid Blyton wrote those words, it doesn’t mean it’s what she believed. It’s what Julian believes.

I’ve found this a lot lately. People saying such and such an author wrote these words, which mean they are racist or misogynistic or something else awful, forgetting the fact that though the author wrote the words, it doesn’t mean that’s what they believe. It’s what their characters believe. There is a difference between an author and a character.

For example, Arthur Conan Doyle was a romantic, dreamy character who believed in spiritualism. Sherlock Holmes was a cool logician, who liked to tell Watson to ‘cut the poetry’. ACD created Holmes, but he didn’t think like him.

I think it’s important a distance is maintained between what an author really thinks, and what their character thinks. I’ve had some characters say some awful things in my books, and I’ve winced, and become quite furious as I write them, because they are so opposite to what I think. Even my heroes don’t think the way I do. Mrs Hudson is a wonderful cook, but I hate cookery.

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