Creating a Functional Interest (Part 1) by Caleb Michael Sarvis

My name is Caleb Michael Sarvis. I’m a writer, a thinker, and currently a self-reflective incubator. Welcome to a blog series in which I’ll be analyzing both the practical and interesting ways imaginary characters can play in fiction, including The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien, 2014’s Best Picture Winner Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and other short fiction.

The Introduction

To be awake is to be alive. I have never met a man who was quite awake.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden


The imaginary character is a fickle one in story. It blurs the borders of genre and complicates our desire to categorize art. To some, especially those charmed by strict realism, the imaginary character comes off as a gimmick, a whimsical decision to make a story interesting that would otherwise be less fascinating without it. Maybe, to an extent, this is true, but if that were the case, then why would the imaginary character permeate so tenaciously through literary history? Perhaps, the imaginary character isn’t simply a gimmick, but a functional craft decision. Perhaps, it is one of the greater weapons a writer can wield.

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