Would it be a mistake for the prophet Jeremiah to be the principal character in a novel about him? Probably, almost certainly, yes. The reasons not to do so spring from the story’s genre, biblical fiction. Before getting specific, let’s look at an overview of some generic character types in fiction.
Author Rachel Poli, in an interesting post at her creative writing website entitled 9 Types of Characters in Fiction, does exactly as promised and defines 9 different character “types” (while making no claim that her list is exhaustive). In this post we are concerned about only one of those types, the Protagonist, Main or Principal Character—even “Hero” might apply—about whom Rachel writes…
Main characters are the root of the story. They will develop over time and will ultimately be part of the driving force of the plot. This is the character your readers will care most about.Rachel Poli
While this seems patently true, generally speaking, consider the immense problems associated with assigning the task of “driving force” to a holy prophet of God! Does it seem sane for a writer to attempt to “develop” the prophet Jeremiah’s character? To examine his thoughts? Probe his weaknesses. Expose his humanity?
Some writers may feel up to the challenge, I do not. And while I have found it necessary in the five biblical fiction novels I’ve written thus far to sometimes ascribe speech and personality traits to true historical characters at the root of each story, I do so sparingly, using other, created characters to carry the weight of the narrative.
In The Ivory House, for example, my novel about the days of the prophet Elijah, the main character is not the prophet himself, but an obscure figure never mentioned by name in the Bible, the son of the widow of Zarephath. Elijah’s story is told through the eyes of a fatherless boy to whom I am free to assign any circumstances, insights, desires or flaws I may wish because the biblical record provides no constraints upon his nature.
Future posts under this “Character” heading will discuss every aspect of character function, development and utilization.