Homo Sapien vs. Homo FictusEssays, Featured — By Kristin McGee on October 22, 2010 at 9:16 am
While discussing Pride & Prejudice recently, one of my professors got out a dry-erase marker and drew a crooked, green T-graph on the board. She labeled one side Homo Sapien, and the other Homo Fictus. Then made a point about the way humans live in reality, and the way we portray ourselves in story.
The lecture went something like this:
In fiction, characters rarely use the toilet, don’t pick their nose, seldom sleep (and when they do their dreams relate to some over-arching theme in their life). They have epiphanies and overcome trials to get what they want. They save the world. Vanquish evil. Discover Truth. In real-life, humans zone-out, overeat and watch trashy reality TV. We never take a transformational journey to Italy or Indonesia. We are too busy to experience profound epiphanies, and rarely know what we want.
James N. Fray expands on these thoughts in his book How to Write a Damn Good Novel. He says, “Homo Fictus has hotter passion and colder anger; he travels more, fights more, loves more, changes more, has more sex…when he isn’t, the reader closes the book, and that’s that.” Fray pens these words for would-be writers, emphasizing the necessity of creating dynamic, Homo Fictian characters. Yet, writers aren’t the only ones who’ve put his advice into practice. We all create Homo Fictus characters in our daily lives.
Case in point:
Father Fictus vs. Father Couch-Potatas
-Daddy Warbucks -Can’t pay my college tuition
-Inquires about my day -Watches NASCAR
-Loving and Neighborly -Avoids the “aliens” next door
We all have charts like this about the people we love. We point to them when our sisters don’t give advice as sage as Elizabeth Bennet or our boyfriends don’t brood as deeply as Mr. Darcy. Why can’t you be like them?, we ask, forgetting the realism of love. Forgetting that character works both ways.
I can’t help but wonder if I cared for friends without condition, would their Fictus chart begin to fade from my mind? Instead of waiting around for my father to turn off ESPN and engage me in conversation, what if I closed my laptop and asked about his day? Maybe then the chart I hide about myself would disappear too. Maybe we can only become the humans we were created to be when we stop treating our friends like supporting characters.