Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Falling In Love With Your Character

Falling in love with one of your characters is treacherous but not unfamiliar territory for a writer. Forget the ego complex of how great you are to have created the perfect character, because if your character is perfect you failed. Forget the fact that falling in love is probably inevitable because of the concentrated time you spent with her/him/it, likely during the cherished late evening hours. You know them better than anyone else. You know what they will say, think or feel, because as the writer you shared intimate thoughts with them first.

You powered through a difficult chapter where your character was not cooperating with you. Perhaps the words didn’t fall effortlessly from your pen and off their lips. Perhaps, it was your first fight together. You compromised, or someone won, but it doesn’t matter now because all is forgiven and they can do no wrong. They speak just the way you want. They dress appropriate to every occasion. They have been transformed into your muse and suddenly you write for them, willingly and madly.

This is natural but difficult. Because, despite all your backstory and character interviews and sketches or magazine collages, this persona you conceived, the love of this part of your life, is not real.

You can argue that they are based on real people, or are the manifestation of imagined experiences. You may go philosophical and ask, “Well, is any of this real?” To which I will probably try to change the subject. 

Your creation is real to you, and if you do a good job, will be real to the majority of people who read your work. And that is where the sweet agony lives. You can not have dinner with your character. You can not wipe away their tears, or dance with them and hear them sing a sultry song softly in your ear. 

What you created exists in your mind and on the page and depending on how well you did that, they will also rest in your reader’s mind. Once in there, your reader may fall smitten with them too. It’s what you want, but it breaks your heart, because you do not want to share your love, but you must.

Your manuscript pages spread out before you like a scrapbook. You reminisce over older drafts and favorite passages. You can probably find the line they spoke that wooed you, standing out like a first kiss. You may weep when you read their final scene. 

No matter how effective you are, no one else will share in that relationship because it’s deeply personal. The relationship between the writer and the character they love is mesmerizing. There is no greater example of unrequited love.

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