Quotations about   characters

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Writing a book is like doing a huge jigsaw puzzle, unendurably slow at first, almost self-propelled at the end. Actually, it’s more like doing a puzzle from a box in which several puzzles have been mixed. Starting out, you can’t tell whether a piece belongs to the puzzle at hand, or one you’ve already done, or will do in ten years, or will never do.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
“Vectors: 56 Aphorisms and Ten-second Essays,” Michigan Quarterly Review, # 25 (Spring 1999)
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Added on 12-Oct-21 | Last updated 12-Oct-21
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Since the objects of imitation are men in action, and these men must be either of a higher or lower type (for moral character mainly answers to these divisions, goodness and badness being the distinguishing marks of moral differences), it follows that we must represent men as either better than in real life, or as worse, or as they are.

[ἐπεὶ δὲ μιμοῦνται οἱ μιμούμενοι πράττοντας, ἀνάγκη δὲ τούτους ἢ σπουδαίους ἢ φαύλους εἶναι τὰ γὰρ ἤθη σχεδὸν ἀεὶ τούτοις ἀκολουθεῖ μόνοις, κακίᾳ γὰρ καὶ ἀρετῇ τὰ ἤθη διαφέρουσι πάντες, ἤτοι βελτίονας ἢ καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς ἢ χείρονας ἢ καὶ τοιούτους.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Poetics [Περὶ ποιητικῆς, De Poetica], ch. 2 / 1448a.1 (c. 335 BC) [tr. Butcher (1895)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

The objects the imitator represents are actions, with agents who are necessarily either good men or bad -- the diversities of human character being nearly always derivative from this primary distinction, since the line between virtue and vice is one dividing the whole of mankind. It follows, therefore, that the agents represented must be either above our own level of goodness, or beneath it, or just such as we are.
[tr. Bywater (1909)]

Inasmuch as those who portray persons -- who must be relatively good or bad, since thus only can character regularly be classified, for the difference between any characters is relative badness and goodness -- portray such as are better than, worse than, or on a level with ourselves.
[tr. Margoliouth (1911)]

Since living persons are the objects of representation, these must necessarily be either good men or inferior -- thus only are characters normally distinguished, since ethical differences depend upon vice and virtue -- that is to say either better than ourselves or worse or much what we are.
[tr. Fyfe (1932)]

Since those who represent represent people in action, these people are necessarily either good or inferior. For characters almost always follow from these [qualities] alone; everyone differs in character because of vice and virtue. So they are either (i) better than we are, or (ii) worse, or (iii) such [as we are].
[tr. Janko (1987), sec. 1.3]

Since those doing the imitating imitate people acting, and it is necessary that the latter be people either of serious moral stature or of a low sort (for states of character pretty much always follow these sorts alone, since all people differentiate states of character by vice and virtue), they imitate either those better than we are or worse, or else of our sort.
[tr. Sachs (2006)]

The thing that representative artists represent are the actions of people and if people are represented they are necessarily either superior or inferior, better or worse, than we are. (Differences in character you see derive from these categories, since it is by virtue and vice that people are ethically distinct from each other.)
[tr. Kenny (2013)]

Added on 21-May-21 | Last updated 21-May-21
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Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps twenty players, and Tennessee Williams has about five, and Samuel Beckett one — and maybe a clone of that one. I have ten or so, and that’s a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
Time (17 Apr 1978)
Added on 27-Aug-15 | Last updated 27-Aug-15
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So, why do you write these strong female characters?

Because you’re still asking me that question.

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Equality Now Tribute Address (15 May 2006)
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Added on 22-Jan-15 | Last updated 22-Jan-15
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A certain critic — for such men, I regret to say, do exist — made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained ‘all the old Wodehouse characters under different names’. He has probably now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled this man by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.

P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) Anglo-American humorist, playwright and lyricist [Pelham Grenville Wodehouse]
Summer Lightning, Preface (1929)
Added on 13-Jul-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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