She’s Baaack!

It’s an interesting phenomenon, the fictional character. It’s not exactly that they become real, but they do. It’s not exactly that they decide for themselves what they will do, but they do.

There’s this little girl in my book, and I put her there because I felt a need to have a girl talk to a girl. Then that flopped, so I took her out. Then I put her back in. And took her out. She was like a florescent bulb that can’t decide whether it wants to turn on or off. Then a couple mornings ago on my way in to work, I thought, well, why not just ask her whether she wants to be in the story or not?

So I did.

And she did.

So I put her back in.

I told Monty (age 12) about this, and he said, “Wait, who are you talking about?”

“My character.”

“The one you wrote? Your made-up character?”

“Yes.”

“You asked her what she wanted?”

“Mm-hm.”

“And she answered you?”

“Yup.”

“Oh. That’s weird.”

Yes, that’s true.

So there was that, and then I got to thinking about this scene I was struggling over, the one where a couple characters who’ve been looking for each other finally find each other, and I had to imagine it now with this extra character in there and… I started to cry. That’s when I knew for sure she had to stay in. It wasn’t any of the main characters, for all their poignancy, who made me feel the pain and the sorrow and the bittersweetness (I always think of Across Five Aprils and 8th grade English, with the teacher who bullied me, whenever I say “bittersweet”) of it all. It was this little girl, slight and quiet and a little shy, standing on the sidelines watching and yearning… who made me weep. So she’s in to stay.

She seems happy about it, even if she is rather sad right now. Bittersweet.

Stick me in the insane asylum. There’s no hope for me.

3 thoughts on “She’s Baaack!

  1. I always think it’s funny when non-writers act like we’re really weird for having a relationship with our characters and treating them like real people. I mean, we know they don’t have bodies or “live” outside our minds, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t “real” in some sense. We’re not delusional because we consider them people. If we didn’t see them as people with personalities we didn’t consciously give them, we probably wouldn’t be very good writers. Very much like parents have little control over their children, I think good writers should let their characters do their thing without deliberately guiding every step of it.

    A couple of quotes I think you’ll relate to:

    “That may sound peculiar (or even pathological) to people who aren’t writers; but the characters who live in the virtual reality of an author’s mind become very real. The writer may be playing God, but the characters still have free will. They stand up and yell, ‘You can’t make me do that!’ in your brain, or take an instant unplanned dislike to another character, or step into a scene for a moment and wind up taking over the story. I once asked my husband [...] if it sounded absurd to say that I was psychoanalyzing one of my characters. He said no–that a well-written character should be real enough that you could analyze him.” –Joan D. Vinge

    “It’s not as if the stories merge to a point where you think they are your life, but you do let them in the front door and the back door, and it’s okay that sometimes certain characters stay for dinner.” –Tori Amos

    :)

    • Love the Joan D. Vinge quote! Thanks for sharing.

      I’ve always been surrounded by people who think me weird. I’m okay with that. And it’s also nice to know that I’m not alone in my experiences. There’s a word for what I am, and it’s a word I like: Writer.

      No promises, of course, on the quality of the writer. But at least we know how to define her.

  2. Pingback: How Parenting Makes me a Better Writer (Part Three) ¶ Writer for Life

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