As a writer, your characters are going to be the best friends you ever had. They are going to pick you up when you’re down, make you smile, make you cry, surprise you, anger you, frustrate you, love you. They say writing is solitary and it is, but when you’re in their world, you’re never alone.
Some, you will love before you ever write a word, formed as they are in your mind. Some will only come to life as you write and re-write, clawing at your brain to have their say and some you will love so much that you will alter their fate, that they may live on, taken with them as you are. And when it comes time to leave them you will miss them and they will remain in slumber within the pages of your book or locked behind the glass of your computer screen, until you visit them again.
So when people offer opinions on them, you will be hurt because you care about them. It’s not just a hit to your pride and your writing style and endless hard work, it’s as if they have grabbed your flesh and blood characters out from the pages and punched them in the gut as you watch on, your hands tied behind your back as the fist flies towards them.
As I wrote, that love for my characters took me by surprise. Sure I was prepared to obsess over words and story structure but I wasn’t prepared to actually care for them and therefore want to do right by them. I’m not afraid to admit that when I read my first draft I felt I’d let my heroine down. She was passive to all the action around her and I knew I hadn’t done her justice. Others around her were doing much more interesting things and though she was central to the story, she felt side-lined and underwritten. So I went back in and gave her her mojo back. I gave her the power and personality she needed and I loved her even more. She is better for it and so am I and so I care.
Your characters are present not only when you’ve pen in hand or seated at your computer. They take a crowbar and prize their way into your normal life and into the most mundane actions (blow-drying your hair, walking back from dropping the kids to school) they invade with their voices in your head.
They will hold your hand as you write through the toughest time of your life, welcoming you back into a safe cocoon where you can let the pain go for a little while or direct it into something positive. They will put their arms around you, lay their heads on your shoulder like ghosts and hold you tight. And you will love them for it.
The great thing about them for me is that they are people I would never meet in real life. A teenage girl lost to a land stricken by The Great Famine, a vampire out for revenge on the brother that left him to die, a mysterious gatekeeper to the supernatural world that will bring them together. You’re not going to run into them at your local Spar. And then I feel lucky. It’s a unique experience, a special relationship that exists only between them and I. A priceless one, devoid of criticism and worries about the future. Maybe others will get to read about them some day soon, maybe not but nothing can alter your experience of creating them. That friendship will last forever.