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Okay, this is a three part journey. Just stay with me.
Have you ever caught yourself wishing that a book in a character was real? Have you ever found yourself telling your friends, “But Harry Potter/Mr. Darcy/Tris is real to me!”
That’s really cool. That means you have a little thing called imagination.
The truth is that the only way that book characters can truly live is if they live on in their readers’ hearts. Any writer can make someone enjoy their writing, but it takes a special author to make their readers laugh, cry, cringe, hurt, love, with people who are made out of paper and ink.
There’s nothing wrong with yearning to talk with our favorite book characters in person. We often find ourselves being drawn to characters who mirror something we see in ourselves, or something we don’t quite see. Book characters help us find our true selves. I will never scoff at someone who says one of their best friends is a fictional character.
Now, if you aren’t a writer this next step might be a little bit more a stretch. If you are a writer, no matter what your status, this is for you!
Your characters are like your children, right?
If a writer feels that connected to someone else’s literary child, imagine how much more she feels about her own characters.
I’m nothing more than a novice world creator, but even I feel a strong bond with every character that my pen creates. I can’t even begin to imagine how the authors who kill off five characters every chapter cope with the loss. Maybe that’s why I haven’t created the next bestseller yet.
This is what leads me to believe that it’s not only normal to feel something for the characters you create, it’s actually healthy. Once a character is in your head, they become a part of you, a real part of you. That doesn’t end when you put them down on paper and hand them off to a publisher. I have the gift, or affliction, depending on how you look at it, of having a very active imagination. Characters and stories are constantly flitting around in my head. Are they any less real than the other parts of my life?
Yes, and no.
Okay, last step. Are y’all ready?
If your characters feel real to you, and are really real to you, is it possible to actually “speak” to them?
I would never have had the courage to call it “speaking” until I heard published authors say they spoke to their characters. It still feels odd saying it out loud, but it’s true.
I don’t mean they talk to characters like you’d sit down and have a conversation with someone in the “real” world. I don’t even mean they hear a voice in their head and respond to it. I mean do your characters show you things? Do they tell you something is wrong with the plot structure? Do they tell you that they’re not going to be the cliche character that you wanted them to be? Do they tell you that you don’t understand their world like you think you do?
If you do, then you have truly climbed into another world and returned holding a golden goose. That’s super impressive.
Personally, I still haven’t got the knack of listening to the characters whose stories I’ve tried to write. I’ve written my stories into more holes than I care to admit.
I do remember one time that I did hear a character speak. I knew my problem wasn’t with the story, or even the scene. The problem plagued me for weeks. I finally dropped the scene and moved on to another story entirely until, finally, I found out what was wrong. I thought up the idea in my own head–I know I did–but I like imagining that my character turned around, looked me in the eye, and said, “You want to know the problem? Stealing his sword shouldn’t be that easy. I don’t want his sword. The crossbar gets in my way. I’m left-handed.“
I vividly remember rushing out of my room to inform every member of the household that, “She’s left-handed!”, and then running back to my room to fix the scene.
I’m sure that I didn’t really startle anyone. They were used to me running out to exclaim any new revelation I read in my books. For instance, when I read the last cycle in the Inheritance Series, I ran downstairs and danced around the living room while shouting, “She’s not alone! She’s not alone!”
You’d get used to it to after a few years 🙂 . (Bonus points for anyone who knows what “She’s not alone” refers to.)
So you see, whether you are a reader or a writer, or even just a movie buff, characters can be very real to you.
But enough about me. I want to hear someone else’s thoughts. Do you believe that characters become alive when you allow them into your hearts? Do you believe that you can find yourselves in characters? Do you believe that a fictional character can truly be your best friend? Are your fictional characters your children?
If you do, you’ll always be welcome in my household. I’ve found that there’s nothing better in the world than talking about a book–it’s people, places, and events–like it’s real. Hence the phenomena of book clubs and conventions.
Tell me about your fictional best friends or children. I’m all ears.