Cartoon characters in fiction

Phil: As Candice wrote on Tuesday, we have gone to some efforts to make our characters realistic. They are then set lose in our imaginary world, which itself has some basis in reality. Although some of the ideas are preposterous, we’ve tried to root the story in the real world so that you can really imagine the things in the book, happening in real life.

But is this the only way ?

I’ve been reading a bit of Tom Sharpe, specifically the follow-up to Porterhouse Blue; Granchester Grind. We both love a bit of Sharpe and much of our style of humour owes a bit to his writings. I’d not read him for a while until I tripped over a second-hand copy of the book and couldn’t remember it at all. As I read, I realised I had been this way before but still enjoyed the journey.

Like a road trip you make every day on the bus, each time to travel you notice different things. At first you concentrate on the route but eventually you take a good look at the scenery. As I read, I noticed something I didn’t the first time around – Tom Sharpe characters are unreal.

It’s not just the names, although Edgar Hartang and Lord Jeremy Pimpole are two of the more sensible and pronouncable in the book, but that they simply don’t behave like real people in the real world. What they do do is behave like  people in the world created by the author. This world is a cartoon version of the world we live in most of the time. Imaging everything turned up to 11 and you get the idea.

Thinking about it, all of Mr Sharpe’s books are like this. By varying degrees, every single character and every single situation is a cartoon. A very funny cartoon but a cartoon none the less.

It’s a litery equivalent of a Tom & Jerry film. Here, the mouse can hit the cat with a frying pan and watch his face change shape to match the pan. And then the chase continues. We know this doesn’t happen in real life but in “Tom’n’Jerry” world, all those pesky laws of physics are suspended and so you really can survive that plummet into the crevice.

So, is all our effort to give characters back stories for nothing ? I don’t think so because the full-on Sharpe isn’t our style of writing, but it’s certainly interesting to realise that he has a style and examine it.  As a writer, this is a bit like standing in the wings watching a magician at work to find out how the tricks are done. Great fun, but you should really go and watch the show from the cheap seats first to see the how it is meant to be enjoyed.

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2 Comments

Filed under Phil, Writing

2 responses to “Cartoon characters in fiction

  1. The power you writers weild. You can make your characters do anything you like and Tom Sharpe delights in making his act really beastly, far beyond a cartoon character; I image him a puppetmaster pulling all the strings with a viscious gleam in his eye and an evil smile.

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