In Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, there’s a part that can be interpreted as Joanna, the author, trying and failing to control her character, Janet. It is an interesting phenomenon in a writer. I myself have had these moments when I put character to page, or even simply in my own head. A character will have run away, and I, the author, cannot find her. Joanna wrote that “I made her up,” as part of her description of Janet (30). It could be Joanna (the character) describing her (in story) efforts to make Janet more presentable or a justification of Joanna’s (in character) alternate ego, but it also describes the writing process. Russ tells her character to behave, and her character does not listen. It seems odd, as authors are supposed to be ‘controlling’ their characters, and have the final say on what characters do on page. At the same time, I can confess, the characters seem to have wills of their own when you write them.
I wonder how aware characters are of their authors? Janet seems to be especially ambiguous; on the one hand, Russ has an in character as Joanna that Janet is aware of. On the other hand, it seems almost like a direct author conversation with her character. Janet’s replies are also ambiguously toward Russ as the author or Joanna the character. When Janet says, “I do not understand you. Why not play?” it seems to suggest Janet wants Russ to ‘play around’ with her character, or it may just be Janet talking to Joanna’s character. I’ve also had a direct dialogue with characters aware of me as an author; one of them likes to jeer me during normal, non-writing life. (I have to threaten him with a name change, since I can’t kill him off–it’s already set in my head that he’s immortal.)
Russ, Joanna. The Female Man. Beacon, 1975
Sipa. Untitled. n.d. https://pixabay.com/en/manga-anime-sport-kick-boxing-613945/. Accessed September 2016.