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Characters Keep the Pages Turning

The fifteenth event of the 2nd EU-China International Literary Festival in Shanghai venue took place on May 27 from 5pm to 6.30pm at Shanghai Xixifu Bookstore (Changfeng Joy City). The theme of this event is “Characters Keep the Pages Turning”. The guests presented were Mr. BTR, a Shanghai writer and literary translator, Ms. Halina from Czech Republic, create characters for books, stage and screen, Mr. Indrek from Estonia, playwright, dramatist and short novelist and Shanghai writer Ms. Huang Yuning, who is also literary translator and literary critic. The four distinguished guests shared their opinions on the creation of characters and related issues in novel writing, and had friendly and sincerely communicated with the audience.

The host first put forward the discussion topic of the event, where did the writers “encounter”, know and understand the characters in their writings, which come out first, the storyline or the characters? In response to this topic, four guests shared their own opinions. Halina believes that although she narrated the “I” in the book, her real life was not so colorful and grand as that written in her works. Many of the descriptions in her works are not real, but only what come to her mind. Therefore, she described herself as a writer to some extent a “liar.” Huang Yuning said that one of the important reasons for her transition from non-fiction writing to fiction writing is that she has fictional impulses and is willing to endow characters far away from real life with fragments of everyday life. She also took her own novel, Call Transfer, as an example to explain the enjoyment of completely different angles gained in her writing process. Indrek then shared some of the rules that he follows when he writes novels. He thought that the writer should allow his characters to breathe freely, and the characters should have some special features or abilities. The last point, he believed that the process of shaping characters must not be too anxious, otherwise it is difficult for readers to be interested in characters. In BTR’s view, the relationship between the characters and the plot is hard to distinguish, because readers often understand the character through plots. As for his own writing, he said that sometimes he wrote short passage to show a typical aspect of a character, or to create freely and flexibly in a slightly longer short story.

In the following free discussion session, the writers shared more in-depth opinions with the audience. Indrek held the view that for each writer, the most important thing is to have his own understanding and view, and strive to add new added value in each new creation. At the same time, he also shared the writing method of setting up multiple parallel story lines. Huang Yuning said that although the accumulation of material and investigation in daily life is important, novelist should have an impulse which prompt the writer think about how to use the material accumulated before. For example, her own impulsion often comes from noisy occasions. BTR and Halina have different opinions on the source of writing inspiration. BTR felt that his inspiration often comes from people’s conversations in public places while Halina regarded her feelings as a source of inspiration because she believed that people’s feelings are common and she can communicate with readers.

In audience questioning section, some audience asked the writers who they liked the most in their own works and other literary works. Halina’s favorite character in her writings is a woman who is similar to herself, widowed but optimistic. Indrek is very fond of a young woman created by herself, who majors in medicine and has super power. Among the characters she created, Huang Yuning preferred the male protagonist who made his living on telecom fraud in the novel Call Transfer. At the same time, she also stated that she likes the narrator Nick in The Great Gatsby. BTR’s favorite character in his own writings is a writer in his latest short story. In addition, there were audience interested in the literature reading condition in two foreign writers’ countries. Halina believed that although social media has caused some negative effects on reading, many people still insist on reading books. Indrek thought that young people’s reading are far less than their predecessors. Regarding the question raised by the audience about whether or not to name people with deep meanings, BTR said that he preferred to name the character with a Chinese name similar to the original name in translation and joked that de-load the burden of translation. Finally, on the question of why he would become a writer, Huang Yuning said that it was her dream since she was a child, and she also hoped to return to the origin after solving problems from life and work. The event concluded after the enthusiastic interaction between the writers and the audience.