Friday, October 21, 2011

Nothin' Personal -- Jus' Good Bidness

I really fall in love with my characters, even the bad ones. I love getting together with them. They tell me what to do; they take me on a wild and wonderful trip.  -- Jackie Collins

I feel sorry for my characters.

That old saying that a writer becomes attached to his or her characters is true. The imaginary person takes on dimensions and traits and personalities that evolve over the course of the story, and by the time you get done you've come to appreciate the character as if he or she is a living, breathing person. As you type the last words of the manuscript, you experience an odd combination of regret that the story-journey is over and sadness that you may not ever get to work with this character again.

Unless the story becomes a series . . . but let's think realistically here.

But here's why I feel sorry for my characters.

I create them, sort of like God. I conceive them in my mind. I mold them out of the clay of my imagination. I set their life course with character sketches and plot lines. And then I set them free to follow their lives, to grow and develop.

But I'm also a cruel god to my characters. Without conflict, there is no story. And my characters encounter lots of conflict. I bash them around, frighten them, destroy their lives, send them into danger, maim them, make them fight each other, freeze them, cook them, starve them . . . and eventually (at least, in the case of many) kill them off. Only a few come through to see a happy ending, but not without going through a lot of misery beforehand.

I should actually feel guilt that I've been so mean. Relief that the ordeal is over for those who survived. Pity for the characters in my next work of fiction.

And sometimes, such as now, I do feel a certain amount of sympathy for what they go through.

I love them -- but I certainly have a funny way of showing it.

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