MONDAY MUSINGS : THE CHARACTER’S IN ME….
A writing friend on one of my Facebook writing groups – shoutouts to Sue Palmer and all of my writing friends at Book Junkies – asked an interesting question yesterday.
“Do you ever imagine yourself as the hero/heroine in your books?”
A lengthy thread of comments promptly ensued as everyone weighed in on the discussion. My response?
My characters tend to run around my head like a holodeck feature. I just join them periodically.
I would give up flavored coffee for a year – well, maybe I’d think about it – to have a holodeck in my office. Or my office in a holodeck. The first time I saw one on the starship Enterprise (Star Trek) the idea of having one of my own took hold. Sadly, I don’t have one. Whine. Pout. Happily, I’ve learned to build whole scenes in my head and move my characters around until I’m happy with the “program” I’ve created.
Once I have the story premise, the basic characters figured out, I set them free to move through the book their way. Oh, I’m a part of the characters – or maybe it’s that the characters are a part of me at this point – but there can be no doubt these are “real” people, separate from me. They’re as real to me as any of the friends I hang out with…which can be unbelievably scary when a serial killer runs amok in my head while I’m washing the dishes.
The truth is, as a writer, I can’t help but leak a little bit of myself into my characters. As hard as I try to keep myself at a distance, despite my need to ensure each character is a person in his or her own right, I do influence them by the some of the choices I make. My experiences color those choices. Just a smidge in my contemporary romances. More than a smidge when I work on my suspense novels. I do have a strong sense of justice that demands expression!
I never imagine myself as the heroine in my books. In fact, for the longest time, I had a devil of a time writing female characters. I just couldn’t relate to them. One of my critique partners, back in my “Jurassic” writing period, once asked me why I always made my heroines such witches-with-a-B. My snappy retort was that I wanted the hero, my heroine couldn’t have him.
Yeah, I had a lot to learn about writing. That same critique partner also informed the newbie me there might be legal problems with the will I’d designed my story around. I argued it was fiction. She argued fiction didn’t mean “made up.” Imagine that!
That book didn’t survive. Our friendship did. And I learned a lot about characterization. I learned to step out of the way so my characters could live. Yeah, I still love my heroes. My heroines have become close friends I care about, girlfriends I want to see achieve their goals and find love on the way. I don’t know where my villains come from which can be a bit dicey to write because I often don’t know what horrible thing they’re going to do until it appears on the computer screen. But this is the way characterization’s meant to be…for me, at least.
I may have started writing two dimensional characters – maybe one dimensional with my heroines – but these people are larger-than-life in my stories now. I know when my critique partners sigh over a love scene, when they laugh at something a character does or when they shudder while reading a death scene, that I’ve given my characters the breath of life they deserve. A life separate from me, the writer. Which makes it somewhat easier to let them go when their story is done.
Book Junkies is an open group on Facebook for both authors and readers. Check them out at firstname.lastname@example.org. They’re a great bunch to hang with!