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Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Character Exchange Program

The idea of a fictional character coming to life is one that I've been interested in for a long time, and I'm not alone. I remember reading the Dragonlance books when I was in gradeschool/junior high and wishing they were real (thank goodness THAT wish didn't come true!)

Last year I listened to The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde, the third book in the Thursday Next Series. In this episode, Thursday is taking a vacation/hiding out by taking part in the Character Exchange program, where she trades places with a character from a book. She chose Cavesham Heights a little known detective novel, hoping that would mean she would not be called on often to "perform". While there, she continues to work with her Jurisfiction mentor Miss Havesham from Great Expectations, who is just a hoot! This series is packed full of characters hopping in and out of well known, and not so well known books, and are just a lot of fun. I would have to say that the Thursday Next series is the most complex world built on the idea of fictional characters coming to life that I have read, and I'm really enjoying what I've read so far. I just love the voice that Elizabeth Sastre does for Miss Havesham, it's wonderful! She is a fantastic narrator! Check out the The Thursday Next Website for more information.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is another great book where fictional characters are not just on the page, but interacting in the real world. In this book there is again the idea of a Character Exchange, where if someone comes out of the book, someone else must go in. Meggie's mother disappeared when she was small. Her father Mo is constantly searching for a certain old book, and will never read aloud. These things don't really register to Meggie as connected until a stranger named Dustfinger appears, and then we learn that he is actually a character from a book that is trapped in the real world when her father was reading aloud. While Dustfinger wants to return home to his own family, there are other characters who were brought through that are quite happy to remain right where they are, and want to make sure that they can never be sent back. Inkheart has been made into a movie starring Brendan Fraser, and I thought they did a very good job on it!

One of my favorite movies of all time fits into this category as well. Labyrinth starrs Jennifer Connelly and Davie Bowie, in which a young girl left at home to take care of her step-brother while her parents go out for the evening, wishes her baby brother away, just like the story she had been rehearsing lines for in the park earlier. Jareth (David Bowie) the King of the Goblins then appears to her and tells her he has granted her wish and taken her brother away. Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), begs for her brother back, and Jareth gives her 13 hours to solve his labyrinth, otherwise the boy with stay with him and become a goblin. This is a Jim Henson film, so it has all the fun of muppet type characters as well! I think this movie made me a fan of David Bowie, as of course he also did the sound track for the it.

The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley is a very cute story in which the story is told from the point of view of the characters in the book, who are very much like actors who are always on call. Every time a reader opens the books, the needed characters must rush to the scene that is open to perform. Sylvie is the main character, and the heroine of the story. She's been a 12 year old Princess ever since the book was published some 80 years before, and she's ready for a change. The characters are never to look at the reader, but one time she does, and when the girl falls asleep, leaving the book open, Sylvie enters her dreams and finds a whole new and ever changing world. The sequel, Into the Labyrinth, continues the story of Sylvie. Now the book has been reprinted, and not only that, but it's being uploaded to the internet! The characters are busier than ever before, and are suffering from the stress of having so many readers around the clock. Not only that, but they must get used to a whole different way of reading, and being on the internet has opened them up to attack from a virus! I have not read the third Sylvie book yet, though I'll be on the lookout for it, The Constellation of Sylvie where she actually makes it into space! I'm interested to see how that goes for her! For more information on his work check out The Official Website.

The Maggie Kelly series by Kasey Michaels promises to be a lot of fun, I'm hoping to get to it this year in my reading. Maggie is a historical romance writer who has had to reinvent herself as a mystery writer when she gets dropped by her publisher. She invents a new hero and story, Alexandre Blake, Viscount Saint Just, complete with sidekick, and is very surprised to find him alive and real in her apartment! Maggie gets caught up in a murder where she is the chief suspect, and Alexandre insist on coming to the rescue and solving the murder, while Maggie is trying to keep anyone from finding out that he isn't a real person, but a character from her books. I'm really looking forward to these!

So, I know there have to be more books where characters come to life, or characters from real life become trapped/visit books, I'd love to hear about more of these!


  1. Aaaahh... Labyrinth. I was invited to see it at the 'Globe' theatre here in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley last Sunday or so. I've been a David Bowie fan for a very long time before that, and I remember the first time I saw the film with my brother in the city. I was young and loved it. It was one of the first times my parents let my brother and me go to the movies on our own.

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