Response to “Control of Distance in Jane Austen’s Emma” by Wayne Booth

In Wayne Booth’s essay, “Control of Distance in Jane Austen’s Emma,” Booth expounds on the character Emma as a sympathetic character. To begin, Booth states that Jane Austen is a master of the rhetoric of narration because she creates a character toward whom we cannot react as she consciously intends for us to react (Booth 35). Booth’s first section of the essay in entitled “Sympathy and Judgement in Emma.” The idea s that Jane Austen creats character twoward whom we cannot react as she consciously intends. Booth writes that, “It is clear that with a general plot of this kind Jane Austen gave herself difficulties of a high order. Though Emma’s faults are comic, they constantly threaten to produce serious harm. Yet she must remain sympathetic, or the reader will not wish for and delight sufficiently in her reform” (36). The goal is to make the reader laugh at Emma’s mistakes and her punishment without making the audience dislike her enough to make them not want to see her reform or happy. The problem however, is that “Any attempt to solve the problem by reducing either the love or the clear view of her faults would have been fatal” (36). Emma’s character is riddled with faults that constantly threaten to produce serious harm, “yet she must remain sympathetic, or the reader will not wish for and delight sufficiently in her reform” (Booth 36). So the only solution to Austen’s problem was to make Emma the narrator of the story: “through the third person, reporting only her own experience.” Instead of the audience standing against her on the outside, we experience life with her and know her inner thoughts and feelings throughout the story.

What sets apart Austen’s Emma from many other novels, is the reliable narrator and the Norms of Emma. The reliable narrator serves to “heighten the effects by directing our intellectual, moral, and emotional progress throughout the novel” (Booth 45). It is a very important role in reinforcing that “both aspects of the double vision that operates throughout the book; our inside view of Emma’s worth and our objective view of her great faults.” Since Emma is the narrator of Austen’s story, “We learn much of what we must know from the narrator, but she turns over more and more of the jobs of summary to Emma as she feels more and more sure of our seeing precisely to what degree Emma is to be trusted.” Emma’s character is one we can sympathize with because she messes up every chance that she gets, but it is crucially important that in all the mistakes she makes, she never ruins any other characters’ life in the novel (such as Harriot).

Booth, Wayne. “Control of Distance in Jane Austen’s Emma.” In The Essential Wayne Booth, edited by Walter Jost, 100-118. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 2006.

Summary of “How Bakhtin Woke Me Up” by Wayne Booth

In Wayne Booth’s “How Bakhtin Woke Me Up,” he begin by telling his readers what the West was saying about the “relations of ideology and form while Bakhtin was writing” (Booth 141). Booth states that, “Formal critics all begin with a truth that recent ideological critics too often neglect: Form is in itself interesting, even in the most abstract scheme” (Booth 141). He goes onto to say that “human meanings” (ideological or theoretical meanings) are not required because “nothing is more human than the love of forms” (Booth 141). However, formal critics struggle with this claim because they do not know how to deal with what we often refer to as ‘content.’

Booth introduces the ideas of Pater, from the late 19th century, who claims that all art aspires to the condition of music, and that “art is not a question of beautiful intertwining of idea, for there should be no ‘content’ to intertwine” (Booth 142). Pater obviously advocates for form and sees no point in content, but “everyone who has pronounced thus boldly for a purified form has been confronted by the scandalous fact that all actual works of art are loaded with ideology” (Booth 142). In response to Pater, Booth writes that “a whole history of art in our century . . . could be written as a grand competition for the position of chief purifier, artists and critics catching each other out for failing to expunge lingering ‘impurities’” (Booth 142).

Booth provides several options throughout for dealing with these scandals of whether or not all is about form or content. Either we can “follow some of the formalists and fight meaning openly, as a taint on pure form”, or we can embrace it. To embrace it would mean that we “downgrade formal interests and to identify a works art with its ideology. Judging works according to their surface truth or falsehood” (Booth 143). The third option is “to move unsystematically back and forth, in an uneasy compromise between talk about form and talk about meanings, depending on what the work itself forces on our attention” (Booth 144). The fourth, and final, option that Booth gives us “might be called ‘Aristotelian,’ or perhaps, to avoid the claim of really having understood Aristotle, ‘neo-Aristotelian’. Here we reject the notion of a seperable ‘content’ altogether and rely instead on a form/matter pairing, in which neither form nor matter can be distinguished in separation from its twin” (Booth 144).

Summary of “Macbeth as Tragic Hero” by Wayne Booth

In Wayne Booth’s essay “Macbeth as Tragic Hero,” he explores Shakepeare’s Macbeth as being both a sympathetic character, and the story being what Booth refers to as sympathetic-degenerative plot.

One of the biggest problems that Shakespeare makes for himself in writing this play, according to Booth, is that he broke his character physically, emotionally, morally, and intellectually (Booth 23). However broken Macbeth was, Shakespeare managed to “keep him an object of pity rather than hatred” (Booth 23).

Macbeth’s story is what Booth refers to as the sympathetic-degenerative plot which almost always includes one or another of the following failures or transformations occur: all sympathy is lost, the protagonist is never really made very wicked, the protagonist avoids his proper punishment, or the artist makes us side with his degenerative hero against “morality.” “Any of these failures or transformations can be found in conjunction with the most frequent failure of all: the degeneration remains finally unexplained, unmotivated; the forces employed to destroy the noble man are found pitifully inadequate to make his fall seem credible” (Booth 24).

The first step to creating Shakespeare’s Macbeth is to have the audience believe that Macbeth was once a man whom we could admire with great potential. The second step, or rule rather, in creating Macbeth was to have the audience see the characters real temptation to the fall. The audience must experience the temptation as it is happening. Shakespeare also employs the use of testimonies form other characters to establish the protagonist’s prior goodness. The audience must believe in the innate goodness of Macbeth. Even when Macbeth commits murder, Shakespeare strategically wrote his story so that the audience never sees Macbeth committing such as horrible act. Had the audience experienced Macbeth’s faults first hand, it would diminish the pity the audience feels for him. “Shakespeare works almost as if he were following a master-rulebook: By your choice of what to represent from the materials provided in your story, insure that each step in your protagonist’s degeneration will be counteracted by mounting pity for him” (Booth 31).

A Summary of “Responses to Bartholomae and Elbow”

In the essay, “Responses to Bartholomae and Elbow,” is begins with Bartholomae’s side of the argument. Although he admits they have a good bit of common ground, he spends the whole rest of the essay trying to prove how Elbow is wrong by seemingly taking quotes from Elbow’s work and using them out of context (which Elbow points out later on in the essay). The first point that he makes against Peter is that he, “comes down on the side of credulity as the governing idea in the undergraduate writing course; I come down on the side of skepticism” (84). Bartholomae boldly states that academic writing is a form of critical writing, and what Peter calls mistrust should actually be replaced with the word criticism. He argues that, it is not that he wants student to distrust, but he wants them to approach everything with a critical eye so that they can ask serious questions. On the subject of teachers, Bartholomae’s aim is to unmask the “subtle and sometimes insidious powers of teachers” (85). Bartholomae poses three crucial pedagogical questions in the conversation, which are as follows: “Is it the job of college English to teach students to learn to resist and be suspicious of writing and the text? Is criticism an appropriate point of entry into the college curriculum and is the freshman course appropriately conceived of as a point of entry into the college curriculum)? Are freshman ready to think first and primarily about the problems of writing when the write?” (85).

Response to “Writing with Teacher: A Conversation with Peter Elbow” by David Bartholomae

In David Bartholomae’s, “Writing with Teacher: A Conversation with Peter Elbow,” there are many of his points expressed in this essay that seem to be contradictory and just plain confusing. To begin his essay, he starts by defining what academic writing actually is, which is actually not as helpful as one would think. Academic writing, according to David Bartholomae, is described as: writing that is done by academics, the writing that passes as currency in the academy, the unreadable created by the unspeakable, stuffy, pedantic, pure, muscular, lean, taut, the language of truth and reason, language stripped of the false dressings of style and fashion, and finally, academic writing is a tool for inquiry and critique. From his description of academic writing, one can already make the assumption that David Bartholomae values academic writing above any other type of writing. Although, he does admit that it is difficult, “to find positive terms for academic writing when talking to a group of academics, including those who could be said to do it for a living” (63). Thankfully, Bartholomae states his position on academic writing clearly when he writes, “I want to argue that academic writing is the real work of the academy. I also want to argue for academic writing as a key term in the study of writing and the practice of instruction” (63). The he rewords this by saying that, “there is no writing that is writing without teachers” (63). He then discusses how the teacher has this power and authority that must be exercised over the students, but also describes academic writing as being crowded with others as if your writing is not your own (maybe writing is crowded by controlling authoritative teachers?). Writing is not your own because it belongs to, “TV, to Books, to Culture and History” (64). So, to summarize, it is as if Bartholomae is saying that students have nothing new to say. Every idea or subject that students could possibly write about has already been done in TV, books, culture and history. Then without any header or concluding sentence to transition, Bartholomae boldly states, “Now-I say this as though it were obvious. Students write in a space defined by all the writing that has preceded them, writing the academy insistently draws together: in the library, in the reading list, in the curriculum” (64). So, now not only are students unoriginal in their ideas and subjects they write about, but they can only write within the confines of the writing that preceded them? Bartholomae’s whole attitude towards students writing is negative, confusing, and contradictory (mostly negative). In the rest of the essay, he claims off-the-wall ideas like how if students are not able to articulate something in writing, then they really know nothing about that particular subject. The problem with Bartholomae is that he does nothing to instill any sort of love for writing or confidence in student writing.

Response to “Understanding Composing” by Sondra Perl

In Sondra Perl’s, “Understanding Composing”, she explores the composing process. At the beginning, Perl describes a study conducted with 20 teachers who responded to what their most anxious moments as a writer were. This gave teachers a chance to see their own composing process at work. The results of this test concluded that there are certain basic patterns that people follow while composing. Perl writes how in the past, people thought that writing was a liner process with a, “plan-write-revise sequence” (364). However, now we are finding that writing is actually a recursive process where, “throughout the process of writing, writers return to sub strands of the overall process, or subroutines . . .;writers use these to keep the process moving forward” (364). She then goes on to discuss some of the recursive elements in writing. The first element that makes writing recursive, is the fact that a writer will always return to what is already written. The second element of recursive writing is that the writer always returns to the topic; this means that the writer will use keys words of phrases throughout their writing (this is to help the writer stay on topic). The final element of recursive writing that Perl discusses, is the backward movement in writing. She describes this movement by saying that the move cannot be identified with words, and that, “the move is not to any words on the page nor to the topic but to feelings or non-verbalized perceptions that surround the words, or to what the words already present evoke in the writer” (365). This leads into the concept that writing about a certain topic that the writer has a connection with will give the writer a felt sense; this is described as a bodily awareness. Writers who are aware of their felt sense have, “the ability to recognize what one needs to do or where one needs to go . . .” (366). Being able to use your felt sense and recognizing that writing is recursive, will help in developing a writing process and making a writer better. This process of writing (using your felt sense) is something that skilled writers rely on whether they know it or not, and it is also something that less skilled writers can be taught (thankfully). Unfortunately, learning the process depends on ones being able to pay close attention to one’s inner reflections and bodily sensations.

At first, reading this whole idea about a writing concept that relies on inner reflection and bodily sensation seems very silly, ridiculous, and just weird. However, when I really think about my process, I can see how elements of this essay are relevant to my own writing process. When I get an idea for something I want to write about, it’s as if a light bulb turns on above my head, and I get a really tense excited feeling in my body. When I get a really good idea, it is almost as if I get an adrenaline rush of excitement to be able to get my ideas and my words on paper. I feel like it all writers take a moment to think about it, writers everywhere experience some sort of bodily change when we get excited about a topic.

Response to “Toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric” by John Poulakos

In John Poulakos, “Toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric”, he explores how the Sophists used rhetoric, and how their methods differed from others like Aristotle and Plato. Even though Sophists were master rhetoricians, typically we follow Aristotle and Plato’s view more than Sophocles. People view the sophistic position as, “an obscure but interesting historical footnote” (35). Poulakos begins by discussing some of the sophists more important implications. He states that the, “Sophists were the first to infuse rhetoric with life” (36). This means that they experimented freely with form and style. They also liked to fashion their words in the Greek spirit of excellence. Sophists focused more on eloquence than the other school of thought. They were also more concerned with the culture around them and believed that rhetoric was an integral part of life. Poulakos writes, “Rhetoric is the art which seeks to capture in opportune moments that which is appropriate and attempts to suggest that which is possible” (36). Sophists spent more time investigating the notions and terms of rhetoric as an art, style of personal expression, Kairos (the opportune moment), to preop (the appropriate), and to dynaton (the possible). To the sophists, rhetoric may as well have been another word for art; there medium being logos. Their main concern was to achieve aesthetic pleasure and belief. The only way to achieve these goals was through style, which even Aristotle could agree with on some level. Poulakos adds a quote from Aristotle acknowledging the necessity of style: “it is not sufficient to know what one ought to say, but it is necessary also to know how one ought to say it” (37).  Not only were the Sophists interested in experimenting freely with form and style, eloquence, and rhetoric as an art; Sophists were also interested in, “the problem of time in relation to speaking” (38). This interest in time refers to the fact that all speech must flow naturally with the situation it addresses. In other words, Sophists believed that basically there is a time and place for rhetoric; speech must be guided by the situation. A speaker is compelled by the urgency of the situation. Personally, my favorite quote from this entire essay comes from Poulakos discussing the Sophists and time. The quote is, “Both timeliness and appropriateness are rhetorical motifs whose essence cannot be apprehended strictly cognitively and whose application cannot be learnt mechanically” (42). I interpret this line as saying that Sophists believed that both timeliness and appropriateness in rhetoric cannot be learned by simply practicing it over and over again (mechanically). Timeliness and appropriateness is something that comes to rhetoricians either naturally, or with further understanding. At the end of this essay Poulakos sums it up by stating definitively that, “I have suggested a “sophistic” definition of rhetoric founded on and consistent with the notions of rhetoric as art, style as personal expression, the timely, the appropriate, and the possible” (46).

Overall, I really like the Sophists idea of rhetoric as it is presented in John Poulakos essay. It sounds to me as though the Sophists were very free spirited, while Aristotle and Plato were very strict and by the book. I appreciate that the Sophists experimented with language and took value in the culture around them. I must admit that I don’t quite understand Aristotle and Plato’s views on rhetoric are accepted and favored over the Sophists.

Response to “Frequency of Formal Errors in Current College Writing” by Robert Connors and Andrea Lunsford

In “Frequency of Formal Errors in Current College Writing, or Ma and Pa Kettle Do Research” by Robert J. Connors and Andrea A. Lunsford, they conduct a study to find what grammatical errors occur frequently in student writing. The began this study with 300 papers graded three different ways. The people grading the tests noted every formal error pattern possible. From this study, they found that very common and serious errors were the ones that they found less of. This is probably because the typical mistakes found in student’s papers are the ones that the majority of teachers focus and drill students on. What they actually found from doing this study, is that the largest percent of errors where in spelling. After they graded all 300 papers extensively, they picked 20 errors patterns that they would train analysts to find. They trained 50 teacher assistants, instructors, professors who volunteered to join the group analysts. Connors and Lunsford found that, “The results of this research by no means represent a final word on any question involving formal errors or teacher marking patterns” (402). The problem with trying to make a definitive statement about teacher error marking patterns, is the fact that what teachers think of as a serious error vary widely. So, “Teachers’ reasons for marking specific errors and patterns of error in their students’ papers are complex, and in many cases they are no doubt guided by the perceived needs of the student writing the paper and by the stage of the composing process the paper has achieved” (402).  After all of the research and gathering information from the analysts, they concluded that, “freshmen are still committing approximately the same number of formal errors per 100 words they were before World War One” (407).

This article basically concludes what every article before this has; it’s hard to find what errors are serious and which ones are not because each teacher has his or her own opinion. However, what I found the most interesting, and relatable, information about this article is the reasons why they mark what they do, or why they decide not to mark certain errors. Connors and Lunsford states that, “. . . the reasons teachers mark any given error seem to result from a complex formula that takes into account at least two factors: how serious or annoying the error is perceived to be at a given time for both teacher and student, and how difficult it is to mark or explain” (404). After reading this statement I immediately think, “wow what lazy teachers”. Then I think about every grading experience I have ever had in a classroom (which is a considerable amount considering I’m an education major). I have personally sat around nitpicking students paper for every mistake; this process would take me so long, and I hated the way the papers looked after I was finished. I also thought that it may have been a waste of my time considering that the majority of students do not actually read comments or corrections on their paper once they have received a grade for the assignment. During one of my field experience opportunities, I was working on grading a test for a teacher. I came across a student would clearly understood the concept, but they answered the question completely wrong. I asked my co-op teacher how she would grade it, and she gave that student full credit for the question because she could tell he or she did understand the concept. I do not personally understand this at all, because if the student truly did understand the concept, then why would that student get the question wrong? I feel like if I had to be a teacher for at least a short time, I would probably be a harsh grader.

Response to “Not All Errors Are Created Equal” by Maxine Hairston

Maxine Hairston wrote an article entitled Not All Errors Are Created Equal: Nonacademic Readers in the Professions Respond to Lapses in Usage, to demonstrate what kind of errors bother professional people the most. She conducted a study consisting of eighty-five people; of those people, three-fourths of them were both male and between the ages of fifty and sixty. Hairston sent out a questionnaire of sixty-five sentences that included errors and asked the participants to identify whether the error “does not bother me”, “bothers me a little”, or “bothers me a lot”. After all the participants sent in their questionnaires, Hairston would tally the responses and classify the errors in a sentence as either outrageous, very serious, serious, moderately serious, minor, or unimportant. Some interesting results she received from her study showed that women had a higher percent of errors that bothered them a lot, whereas men were split evenly between “bothers them a little” and “bothers them a lot.” The study also showed that women tend to have more “pet peeves” when it comes to grammar, because Hairston states that, “women’s attitudes toward language are more conservative than men” (796).  However, both men and women were bother a lot by usage errors that Hairston refers to as “status markers.” Towards the end of the article, Hairston does admit that the results of the data could have been skewed since there were so little participants, and the people who did participate were people she knew. The data could also be skewed because of the participants need to “[try] to do well on the test” (798). However, of the comments sent in with the text by the professionals, a common theme occurred. Hairston explains that, “. . . the theme that dominated the written comments was professionals’ concern for content; they care even more about clarity and economy than they do about surface features” (798). Overall, the results of the test indicate that professionals are more concerned with the clarity and the economy of the writing above all else.

Speaking from personal experience, having worked in your stereotypical professional office job where you sit in a cubicle and stare at a computer screen for eight (sometimes nine) hours a day five days a week, I can say that I agree wholeheartedly with results of this study being that professionals, “care even more about clarity and economy than they do about surface features” (798). The first day that I walked into the office my boss handed me a book. This book was entitled The Business Writer’s Handbook (10th edition) by Gerald J. Alfred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu. He handed me this book and told me that if I was going to be sloppy in my writing, then I didn’t deserve to be there (you could say that he is much worse than the women in this study). Because this job was supposed to introduce me to the “real world”, I was not allowed to ask for help when it came to my writing. Any question or doubt that I had about my writing, I was supposed to refer to this book like a manual. A portion of my job working for this company was to write their weekly newsletter. Since my boss had indicated how important the mechanics of my writing were, I did not take very many (if any) risks in my writing; this is a concept that is described in The Phenomenology of Error by Joseph M. Williams. I paid close attention to my sentence structure so that I would not make any grammatical mistakes. The first newsletter that I submitted was unfortunately ripped a part in front of my face. Although I had done everything in my power to write well, my boss told me that my thoughts were unclear, and that I wasted too much time adding words that were unnecessary. By the time the finished newsletter was sent out company-wide, it was only maybe one-fourth of the length it was in the first draft. I learned that, although the mechanics of writing are important, in the business world people do not want to read more than they need to – in other words – it’s all about content.

Character Development: How Different Writer’s Develop Different Characters

“It is through characters that readers come to care about and connect with literature; characters entice us to stick around and make literary meaning” (Roser, Nancy, and Miriam G. Martinez). Authors everywhere argue and debate over the characters as a literary element as an important component of literature. Most believe characters are the driving force of any story, but how the problem is, writing a character who is: entertaining, relatable, and most importantly sympathetic. The sympathetic character is a difficult character for most writers to achieve. However, there have been two sympathetic characters that all writers should strive to imitate: Janes Austen’s Emma and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The process of developing characters, and achieving the goal of creating the sympathetic character, has been studied and written about for years. Strategies like “showing your reader’s letters the characters have written” is just one of the many tried by authors to develop relatable characters (Goodman 65). A collection of strategies and ideas behind character development has been compiled in order to help new fiction writers begin their story.

What a Character! Character Study as a Guide to Literary Meaning Making in Grades K-8 is a collection of essays all pertaining to character development from different writers and teachers of English. The book begins with the preface entitled “Why Character?” In this section of the book, they argue that “characters lead students to deep, satisfying, and meaningful experiences with literature. In fact, [people] become more insightful about the human experience through the characters who tussle with critical moral and ethical dilemmas” (Roser, Nancy, and Miriam G Martinez vi).

Another significant section in this book to note is called, “Hey, Character, Where Did You Come From?” by Katherine Paterson. Paterson starts off by stating that, “where a character comes from is often a mystery – even to the writer” (Paterson 14). This seems to be a common theme among writers, critics, and people who study character development in general. Writer’s often can’t tell a reader exactly when or how they came up with the ideas for their stories and characters. But one thing that Paterson is certain of from her experience writing is that, “Characters in books have to be believable, and real people aren’t believable” (Paterson 15). She even has a mantra for when she first began writing short stories: “Somethings got to happen; someone’s got to change.”

One author who works at making her characters believable in a different way is Deborah Wiles. Wiles “believes characters come from ‘the stuff of our lives.’ She explains how she imbues her characters with qualities and feelings of her own life. . . she encourages [students] to find their own stories – because their personal stories ‘determine their own characters, and the characters they create” (Wiles 18). All of the characters that Wiles brings to life is described as being her. She develops the characters in her stories from her personality and her experiences. Throughout Wiles process for creating her characters, she develops a list of questions that must be answered before her characters come to life: What do they care about? How do they feel about the other characters in the story? She answers these questions about her characters by allowing the characters to interact with one another on the page; “It is only after I have written a story that I discover its deep themes” (Wiles 19).

Another point that Deborah Wiles makes in her essay is that these is no story without the antagonist, because there is no plot without opposition. The author needs to know exactly how their protagonist feels in order for the opposition to be real and relatable. The point of view of the author and the point of view of the characters need to be one in the same to write an effective short story with well-developed characters. In Wiles teaching she tells “students that they can use the disappointments, sorrows, and rages of their lives to infuse their characters with emotion and depth – for that’s where character depth comes from: the willingness to ‘go there,’ to tap the fear you felt, the sweetness you knew, the anger, the joy, all of it” (Wiles 24). This way of looking at developing character is radically different from those of well-known writer Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ursula K. Le Guin, author of The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination, is the winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Gandalf, Kafka, and National Book Awards. Le Guin “is the author of many short stories and more than fifteen novels, including The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, and the Earthsea Cycle. She is also an honored author of children’s book, poetry, and criticism.”

In her book, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, she includes a section entitled “On Writing” which discusses “The Writer and the Character.” This short essay delves into Ursula Le Guins guidelines for developing characters in fiction. She begins by stating: “Whether they invent the people they write about or borrow them from people they know, fiction writers generally agree that once these people become characters in a story they have a life of their own, sometimes to the extent of escaping from the writer’s control and doing and saying things quite unexpected to the author of their being” (Le Guin 235). Basically, characters in stories take on a life of their own, once they do, the author in a sense, loses control over their creation. Although, Le Guin does point out the fact that the author does need to spend a considerable amount of time pondering the character’s motives in order to understand the destiny of that character – after this stage in the developing process – the character begins to do and say things because that is who they are, not because that is who the author is, or even because that is who the author decided that character would be. Characters take on a life of their own, as long as the author is willing to remain distant from the character. Le Guin states, “In planning the story and in revising it, I do better to keep some emotional distance from the characters, especially the ones I like best or loathe most” (Le Guin 235). In order to create an authentic character that the reader can be sympathetic towards, or even begin to think is real, the author must maintain this emotional distance. If the author becomes too involved with his or her character, the character begins to reflect the needs and opinions of the author. Le Guin describes this as the characters becoming more like “puppets”; “If I’m using the people in my story principally to fulfill the needs of my self-image, my self-love or self-hate, my needs, my opinions, they can’t be themselves and they can’t tell the truth” (Le Guin 236). A character can be allowed to embody the authors experience and emotions, but the author must not confuse themselves with the character. Le Guin writes, “If I fuse or confuse a fictional person with myself, my judgment of the character becomes a self-judgement” (Le Guin 236). The author becomes the “witness, defendant, prosecutor, judge, and jury,” therefore making justice for the character impossible.

Ursula Le Guin not only touches on the reality of fiction characters and the need for distance between the characters and the author, but she also touches on what readers need to remember about the characters the read about in stories. She writes, “The naïve reader often does not take the distance into account [distance between writer and character]. Inexperienced readers think writers write on from experience. They believe that the writer believes what the characters believe. The idea of the unreliable narrator takes some getting used to” (Le Guin 237). Readers must not always rely on the narrator to tell them about the author, because according the Le Guin, that shouldn’t be the goal of the author. According to Le Guin, authentic fiction stories are those in which the author’s point of view does not coincide with the characters point of view; “In so far as the author’s point of view exactly coincides with that of a character, the story isn’t fiction. It’s either a disguised memoir or a fiction-coated sermon” (237).

Le Guin ends her essay, “The Writer and the Character”, with a few definitive statements on her stance as a fiction writer. One, the authors point of view will always be larger than the character. The author’s point of view will be larger because he or she will always have knowledge that the character lacks. This bit of dramatic irony is necessary when developing characters. Le Guin writes, “This means that the character, existing only in the author’s knowledge, may be known as we cannot ever know any actual person; and such insight may reveal insights and durable truths relevant to our own lives” (Le Guin 239). And lastly, the difference between the author’s point of view and the characters, whether obvious or concealed, must exist. It is only when these two points of view are different, that we as the reader, can experience “discovery, change, learning, action, tragedy, [and] fulfillment” (Le Guin 239).

The Art of Brevity: Excursions in Short Fiction Theory and Analysis includes an essay by Susan Lohafer entitled, “Real-World Characters in Fictional Story Worlds: Robert Olen Butler’s ‘JFK Secretly Attends Jackie Auction’.” Lohafer begins this essay with several first lines. Lines from different stories (that she does not name). The first line of a story sets the stage for all that follows. Whether introduced in the first line or not, every story must introduce a predicament. She writes that, “If it is a narrative we can read in one sitting, if it shows us a fabricated world with a character at risk, if it gives us an outcome that is humanly significant, we can be reasonably sure we are reading a short story” (Lohafer 32). However, she writes that, “If there are claims to truth-value, if every assertion is marked as either factual or speculative, if differing viewpoints are contested or revised, we are likely to be reading a historical account” (Lohafer 32).

The purpose of Susan Lohafer’s essay is to explore the inroads of “creative nonfiction” within the genre of short fiction; “. . . I will be considering the effect of nonfictional characters in a fictional story world. Specifically, I will be asking whether a celebrity protagonist, trailing cloud of nonfiction, alters our response to markers of the short story” (Lohafer 33). In order to explore this question, Lohafer conducted an experiment using a class of college students and Robert Olen Butler’s story “JFK Secretly Attends Jackie Auction.” “Butler’s story includes a fictional visit to this very real, highly publicized event. However, the story focuses on JFK, acknowledging the historical event of his assassination but creating an alternative and fantastic scenario that goes as follows: the bullet did not kill Kennedy by destroyed the ‘editor’ to his brain, causing him to speak freely and truthfully about classified information” (Lohafer 35). In the story, JFK is taken away by the CIA and put in a secret location. The CIA tells the whole world that Kennedy is dead, while the real (alive) Kennedy is playing golf and sleeping with all of the women he wants. When Jackie Kennedy dies, they allow JKF to leave his secret hideout and attend the auction of their belongings. While he’s there, Kennedy sees several Jackie impersonators. He begins to realize how much he loved her after seeing all of the possessions that they owned together. Lohafer writes tells that, “The story ends with an interior monologue, a mediation on the human need to touch objects and bodies in order to reify memory and keep death at bay” (Lohafer 35). This particular story of Butler’s expresses the ‘yearning’ that all short stories express. This yearning “is the driving force behind the highest art and the lowest journalism” (Lohafer 35). So, the question is, “How does our knowledge of that legend affect our reading of the short story” (Lohafer 35). Lohafer began the experiment, using this story, she created a pseudostory. The pseudostory was overall 90 percent of the original text was retained verbatim (the biggest changes being the names of the characters). She gave half of the class she used for the study the original story about the Kennedy’s, the other half of the class was given the pseudostory which she refers to in the essay as the Osborne story.

The results of the experiment conducted by Lohafer turned out mostly how she expected. What she thought she would find in the results of the experiment was that the responses to the Kennedy story would be riddled with tabloid signifiers, and that the responses to the Osborne story would be more sensitive to the short story. Surprisingly, the students didn’t respond differently because of the celebrity characters. Both groups of students want to know more about the outside world (the real world around the story as opposed to the story world). What was different about the two groups was that, without the interference from the historical record and tabloid scenarios, the responses to the Osborne’s story tended to be what Lohafer originally thought it might have, the responses were more sensitive.

From this essay, we know that a creative short story that uses historical characters (otherwise, characters that the author did not develop themselves), the reader will tend to be less sensitive to the story. The reader will lean towards thinking of the tabloid and what is already known about the characters. The historical background already engrained in the reader’s mind dramatically effects the reader’s response to the story.

Jack Maguire, author of Creative Storytelling: Choosing, Inventing, and Sharing Tales for Children, writes an essay on “Bringing Characters to Life.” He believes that “if your original story idea does not contain any specific characters, there are several experiments you can perform to come up with a suitable cast for your tale” (Maguire 139). The writer must choose specific qualities to center the story around and build character off of that particular quality. “If your story is a ‘quest’ story, you may want a character who is basically curious pitted against one who is set in his or her way” (Maguire 139). Characters must match the overall feel of the story and have set qualities that are conducive to the type of story that it is. “The trick is to organize your entire depiction of a particular character around a single, pervasive attribute and yet make the character believable and not flat” (Maguire 139). The character should not have too many attributes or it could be in danger of becoming overly complex. Characters do not have to be too complex in order to be well-developed. Maguire’s simple formula, or rather conditions that the writer must follow in order to write well-developed character is as follows: “live with your characters for a while before fitting them into a plot of a story, remember that a character us best revealed through his or her actions, concentrate on the relationships a character has, rather than on who or what the character is in isolation, and lastly communicate a character’s intentions, attitudes, opinions, wishes, and fears through his or her own voice. These are all very clear and simple, but they directly contradict ideas from Wayne Booths analysis of the greatest characters written.

In the Essential Wayne Booth, Booth develops his ideas of what makes Jane Austen’s Emma and Shakespeare’s Macbeth some of the greatest characters (probably ever) written. Jane Austen (to begin with) is a master of the rhetoric of narration because she creates a character toward whom we cannot react as she consciously intends for us to react. Emma’s character is riddled with faults that constantly threaten to produce serious harm, “yet she must remain sympathetic, or the reader will not wish for and delight sufficiently in her reform” (Booth 36). The goal is to make the reader laugh at the mistakes committed by Emma and her punishment. This is difficult because Austen could neither reduce the amount of love or Emma’s fault without ruining the story altogether. So, in order to retain the humor, her faults, and love, Emma has to be made the narrator for only her experiences.

What sets apart Austen’s way of developing character, with what has been previously discussed, is the reliable narrator and the Norms of Emma. The reliable narrator serves to “heighten the effects by directing our intellectual, moral, and emotional progress throughout the novel” (Booth 45). It is a very important role in reinforcing that “both aspects of the double vision that operates throughout the book; our inside view of Emma’s worth and our objective view of her great faults.” Since Emma is the narrator of Austen’s story, “We learn much of what we must know from the narrator, but she turns over more and more of the jobs of summary to Emma as she feels more and more sure of our seeing precisely to what degree Emma is to be trusted.” Emma’s character is one we can sympathize with because she messes up every chance that she gets, but it is crucially important that in all the mistakes she makes, she never ruins any other characters’ life in the novel (such as Harriot).

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Shakespeare creates a different problem than that of Jane Austen’s. Shakespeare broke his character physically, emotionally, morally, and intellectually. Macbeth’s story is what Booth refers to as the sympathetic-degenerative plot which almost always includes one or another of the following failures or transformations occur: all sympathy is lost, the protagonist is never really made very wicked, the protagonist avoids his proper punishment, or the artist  makes us side with his degenerative hero against “morality.” “Any of these failures or transformations can be found in conjunction with the most frequent failure of all: the degeneration remains finally unexplained, unmotivated; the forces employed to destroy the noble man are found pitifully inadequate to make his fall seem credible.”

The first step to Shakespeare’s development of characters is that the audience must believe the main character was once a man whom we could admire with great potential. The second step, or rule rather, in developing character is allowing the audience to see the real temptation to the fall. The audience must experience the temptation as it is happening. Shakespeare also employs the use of testimonies form other characters to establish the protagonist’s prior goodness. The audience must believe in the innate goodness of Macbeth. Even when Macbeth commits murder, Shakespeare strategically wrote his story so that the audience never sees Macbeth committing such as horrible act. Had the audience experienced Macbeth’s faults first hand, it would diminish the pity the audience feels for him. “Shakespeare works almost as if he were following a master-rulebook: By your choice of what to represent from the materials provided in your story, insure that each step in your protagonist’s degeneration will be counteracted by mounting pity for him.”

There is an array of strategies and different techniques when developing characters. Some writers believe that character and authors should have completely different points of view, while others believe that the author and the characters are one in the same. Writer’s draw inspiration from a multitude of things, whether it’s people and experiences in their lives, or just a fleeting thought of imagination they turned into a short story. Developing characters requires a great deal of planning. Developing a sympathetic character requires an enormous amount of planning and working through every detail in order to predict the audience’s responses to the characters. As much as the writer may try to predict the audiences response, or write to a specific audience, the writer must always write from the heart to create truly relatable, entertaining, and well-developed characters.