Making My Characters Real

Writing using the method of a conversation with myself surely is a piece of cake, right?  After all, I am only writing different versions of myself – the younger self and the present day self.  So I started writing without much planning of what roles will the different me play in my article and the first draft was a mess.  Then I thought, wait a minute, how about I plan out my two characters better? Like the younger self being this navie and full of optimism character and the present self being the more experienced and realistic character?  Then I started writing the 2nd draft basically as you (my younger self) are wrong and I (the present day self) am right, in my mind, it was clear that the older and wiser me must be right as I should have learnt from my past experience, at least this is the case in my head.  However, this became too idealistic in many not too good ways. The biggest problem of all, one that I couldn’t see until my peers pointed out, was that I am no longer talking to myself, my two characters are not different versions of myself, as least not for my readers. I must present two separate and plausible characters, like not being always right or always wrong.

In Martin Kusch’s summary and review of Timothy Williamson’s Tetralogue:  I am Right, You’re Wrong, he criticises how Williamson has created these four very different characters with very black and white views, which is not really plausible in real life.

Tetralogue is based on a train journey conversation between four passengers, which could be a common occurrence.  However, it is their characters that make the event unbelievable. I haven’t read the actual book, however, according to Kusch, one of the four characters has the sole responsibility to present all of Williamson’s philosophical references and whilst these references might all be relevant, the burden of presenting it shouldn’t fall onto the same character as this is something that doesn’t usually happen in real life.  Real life characters tend to have one of two heros and favourite writers, artists or people from whatever professions they belong to. It seems to me is that Williamson has tried too hard to make this character some sort of philosophical encyclopedia, presenting all facts on an even keel, essentially making him boring and uninteresting to have a conversation with.

Kusch goes on to criticise another character is “always right, arrogant and sanctimonious.  She sounds more like a philosopher’s superego than a human being.” (Kusch, 2015)  Whilst people like this exist everywhere, they are people who I personally wouldn’t want to engage with, because they are always right and you are always wrong regardless of who is right and who is wrong.

The biggest issue Kusch has with Williamson’s text is this, “to be pedagogically successful a text has to be a good read.  And in this respect Williamson’s book is uneven. The conversation does not flow easily and naturally; and three of the four characters remain flat and psychologically implausible.” (Kusch, 2015)

Whilst the actual text by Williamson doesn’t really interest me, this review serves an important reminder for me; I need to plan more carefully of my two characters to make them both plausible and interesting, so here is what I think they are going to be:

My younger self:

I will still want to portray her as the young and slightly naive character, because I was.  Also, this should give me plausible reasons to use her to ask meaningful questions. To make her more real and more relevant, I will try to based her character on some of the commonly seen characters of my own students, so hopefully my readers could recognise her.

The present day self:

It has to be my true self as this is the whole reason for wanting to write the article.  However, instead of thinking I am right and everyone else is wrong, which I still could be, I might be better off presenting a more level headed self as certain points of the article / conversation.

These two will disagree, they might even argue but in the end, they would agree to disagree or agree to agree on things. I will try to avoid the I am right and you are wrong mentality in my article as best as I can.  Although I think it would be fun to write and will get all my frustration out if I am right through and through, it wouldn’t be a plausible nor engaging read, not as an academic writing anyway.

Reference:Kusch, M. (2015) ‘Flogging a Unicorn: Timothy WIlliamson, tetralogue: I’m Right, You’re Wrong.’ 153pp, Oxford University Press. Available at: (Accessed: 10 Mar 2019)

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