Creating a Functional Interest (Part 7) 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.


Reason, Dreams, and Conclusion

Hemingway, Carver, and other post-Enlightenment authors championed realism in its most literal sense. If art is the representation of real-life then art must be as close to real-life as possible. Angels don’t exist in real life. Tigers don’t associate with six-year old boys. A deer carcass doesn’t orchestrate an existential crisis. These claims are fallacies. If not for imagination, then we’d have no fictions. In his “First Manifesto on Surrealism,” Andre Breton argues that we mistakenly dismiss the significance of dreams. Like the imaginary character, Breton believes dreams are a clearer representation of what we desire, and as a result, the dreamer is a more content man, Continue reading “Creating a Functional Interest (Part 7) by Caleb Michael Sarvis”

Creating a Functional Interest (Part 6) 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.


Stories by Chris Adrian

In his story “A Better Angel,” Chris Adrian creates a world in which a guardian angel is something more of a self-righteous partner. The narrator, Carl, is an impaired (as in swiping morphine, Percocet and Ativan when he can) pediatrician that’s left to deal with his dying father because his three older sisters are pregnant at the same time and aren’t doctors like him. Nor do they have guardian angels like Carl. He’s had his since he was six, and now that he has to face and care for his dying father, someone he has little to no relationship with, his angel is pushing him towards resolution. When Carl resists going to see his father, the angel is quick to judge, Continue reading “Creating a Functional Interest (Part 6) by Caleb Michael Sarvis”

Creating a Functional Interest (Part 3) 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 Third Policeman

In Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, an unnamed narrator obsessed with the teachings of a fictional scholar named de Selby experiences the imaginary character in multiple forms. The most obvious and apparent would be Joe, the vocal representation of his soul. Joe is a voice that lacks confusion and the need of self-assurance. In the novel, the narrator participates in a series of both events and conversations that appear to be complete nonsense, and Joe is always there to be the voice of what appears to be reason. While he doesn’t directly oppose the narrator (the two policemen act as a natural antagonist), he does appear at interesting (and sometimes inconvenient) moments. Joe first appears as the narrator is about to steal from Mathers, a man he killed with his friend Divney, Continue reading “Creating a Functional Interest (Part 3) by Caleb Michael Sarvis”

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.

Continue reading “Creating a Functional Interest (Part 1) by Caleb Michael Sarvis”