Interview with a Marginal Character from a Mediocre Story
I had the opportunity to interview Bill Sachs, fictional character, neighbor of Carol and Steve Sherman, the protagonists of a short story, The Street Goes Dark, a mediocre and hackneyed tale about how a block comes together after a blackout during a rainstorm. Bill is a marginal character and not even related to one of the central tenets of the story, so the time I spent with Bill was especially valuable to learning more about the mechanics of poor writing and character development.
Bill, thanks for taking the time, though I know you don’t really have much else going on.
Thanks for having me; this is truly a first.
First, tell me a little about The Street Goes Dark—when are you introduced, what is your connection to the plotline?
Well, first, as you know, I wasn’t thought-out very well. First the writer introduces me as the fat, balding, nebbish neighbor to Carol and Steve who doesn’t interact with anyone but his dog. But then in a later scene, I invite myself over to their backyard for a barbeque and proceed to cause a ruckus with my beer-drinking wife, so there are a few inconsistencies and they are mostly contradictory, and not subtextual.
I see. That must have been difficult.
Not really, I mean, I am a fictional character so I am what I am written to be and I don’t have many feelings about it. After all, I am one-dimensional.
How was the interplay with the other characters? Did you find any others like yourself?
For the most part I didn’t have much to do with other characters. There were so many like me, though, that we at least had some commonalities in that respect. There wasn’t really a theme to the story so that didn’t bond us. Just the notion that the story was so trite: a neighborhood where few people knew each other is forced to turn to one another when faced with adversity. But the writer didn’t reach beneath the surface and so many—if not all—of the characters interacted on just one dimension. We didn’t have any development so the reader really didn’t have much to empathize with. I was especially marginal, though, so my role in the plot could have been deleted and there would have been no difference.
Was there anything special about you, something the reader could take away or learn from?
No, not really.
So is your existence punctuated by the mediocrity of the story, or is there more to you? Will you reappear somewhere else?
The good thing about being one dimensional and marginal together is that I can reappear in many forms in hundreds—if not thousands—of other stories written around the world by mediocre writers. It’s phenomenal how Bill Sachs can fill in just about anywhere and appears for no reason in storylines that just don’t have any need for me. And since I don’t drive the plot in any way, I just take up words—but not too many descriptors–anywhere. The good thing is that I don’t have baggage. I have no history, no nuance, so I can be dropped in any form where the writer just hasn’t thought about theme or subtext. I don’t have any meaningful existence, so I’m totally flexible.
This is not your first time in a mediocre story?
Oh, no, not at all. Well, technically as Bill Sachs specifically, yes, it is the first time. But symbolically, so to speak, a character with no attachment to a story that has little purpose can appear empirically. Someone once said that unless a character or dialogue advances the plot, don’t put it in because it has no use and it just takes up words. Well, I can affirmatively say that I don’t fulfill any of those requirements.
Would you ever appear in a well-written story?
Oh I don’t think I have that capability. It’s just not possible, unless–and I’m going out on a limb here—it’s totally absurd. I can’t envision it, but with absurdity anything can happen so I wouldn’t put it past a writer who could incorporate meaningless, one-dimensional characters into a story with no beginning, middle or end.
And what about existentialism? Does that come into play at all?
Hey look, I did this interview as a favor, so I don’t appreciate that accusation. I exist, ok? I am here, on paper, and that’s undeniable. How much I emote is a different story altogether, but I was in no uncertain terms a product of the writer’s story, whether meaningful or not, I am there and the reader cannot deny my existence. Just because I am marginal, and meaningless doesn’t mean you can slap some heavy philosophical label on me.
I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean for it to be an insult. I was thinking empirically, about all the other marginal, fictional characters. Perhaps there is a theme there.
We have nothing in common and there is no underlying meaning behind our existence. We are here, as one, as all, because so many writers are indifferent to the purpose of our existence. I can’t help it.