I am reading Goodbye, Mr. Nothing by F.K. Preston, a favorite contemporary author of mine, and his narrator happened to mention, with respect to films, what he really loves in movies are the characters. Getting to know them. Loving and hating and feeling with the acted beings.
I can understand this affection, having felt character love often in my reading. My reading has changed over the years and now I find that characters aren’t the source of my joy in reading fiction these days. In fact, I don’t care much for story, style or character except as part of the experience. What I delight in are narrators.
I focus my attention on narrators because, like any person who tells me a story, I get to know them through the story better than I could ever know the chronicled events. The mind that selects words and places them in order is wholly revealed by any sequence of writing, more so in fiction, so much more so than any other expression could reveal. It has nothing to do with muscles or the alteration of physical realities manipulated in pursuit of expression. Writing is the most abstract, the most internal, most personal of communications. We, our personalities, our thoughts, our characters, are the words we compose.
I enjoy Preston’s work, along with every great writer on my list of great writers, because I like the voice of the narrator. I want to hear the narrator, listen to the narrator, experience the company of the narrative mind. Not the author. Not the characters.