The Fanatic and the Skeptic: A Tale of Two Characters

I don’t usually read author interviews, or at least, I don’t read them until after I’ve read their works. Partly because I just don’t find them that interesting most of the time, but also because I prefer to just experience the work, explore how I feel about it, and then go back and read the author’s stuff.

Anyways, there’s usually one question I see over and over in interviews with authors: Are any of your characters based on people you know?

I can tell you right now that there is one character in one of my stories who is based on someone I know from university.

Well, actually, the truth is my characters are based on….me.

Many of you know that I like to do this nerdy thing called participating in play-by-post roleplaying games, an activity that not only improves my writing, but helps me figure out things about myself through those characters.

This is a tale about two specific characters. I’m going to call them the Skeptic and the Fanatic.

The one thing you need to know about the Fanatic is that he was extremely devoted to his deities, even to the point of making other characters uncomfortable. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a very good candidate for the priesthood because he just didn’t really have the discipline for it. I guess “fanatic” isn’t really the right term, because he wasn’t really very concerned with what other people did, he just really, really loved his deities.

The second character, the Skeptic, was an atheist in a world where it’s pretty much a given that deities exist and they talk to people. Also, love is stronger than gravity. The Skeptic, however, thinks that this is all bullshit, and his fellow citizens are fools for believing in fairy tales. He was also, yes, kind of grumpy in general, and the sort of person who liked to appear cold and aloof and somewhat unfeeling until you discovered he faithfully maintained a cookbook belonging to his mother, for, um, research purposes, of course.

In my time on that board, I had the opportunity to play both of these characters numerous times, and over time, they changed. The Skeptic became a bit less curmudgeonly, even though he still thought the vast majority of folks were fools, and although the Fanatic’s devotion didn’t lesson, he did manage to learn a little discretion.

I actually played out a thread once with another player where the two of them met, and surprisingly, they managed to not kill each other, though the Skeptic was very clear that he didn’t like the Fanatic, and the Fanatic was chill because he’s laid back like that.

The thing is, the interplay between these two characters is something that is constantly playing out in real life. There are days I am filled with the love for one’s deities that the Fanatic seemed to bask in every day, but there are other days when the Skeptic takes the reins, and I’m left with the feeling that maybe what I’m doing isn’t really helping. Maybe everyone is delusional, and I (like my character) am the Only Sane Person in the room.

See, because unlike the Fanatic and the Skeptic, I don’t live in a world where you literally see evidence of the deities everywhere, where no one (apart from the Skeptic) questions that deities exist, and that they are active in the world.

Even if that weren’t true, though, the Fanatic doesn’t worry too much. He just goes into it with an open heart and does the best he can. The Skeptic doesn’t work that way though, he needs Proof, and he doesn’t trust anything he can’t see and verify for himself.

This is why I found their development so fascinating, particularly on the Skeptic’s end, because although he was still his grumpy, atheist self, his mind had expanded so he didn’t automatically dismiss someone as foolish because they believed in deities, and he learned to lighten up a whole lot.

Anyways, my point is these characters are both a part of me, and sometimes I have moments where I feel more like one than the other. Unfortunately, my character development will probably take much longer than there’s did.

Yes, I have some strange voices in my head. You see, when you become a writer, you suddenly have all these characters hanging around, telling you to write things. Don’t worry, you’re not crazy, or actually, you might be a little crazy, but that’s okay, it’s all a part of being a writer.

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