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?”
“The one you wrote? Your made-up character?”
“You asked her what she wanted?”
“And she answered you?”
“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.