Here’s something that they don’t teach you in writing school, how to deal with your characters on a personal basis. Now all that seems pretty simple, they are after all fictional, make believe, fantasy. In short “They ain’t real dufus!”. Now thats all very good and well but when you run into your characters on a daily basis, the lines can get more than a little fuzzy.
When I am not writing on a particular story, the characters tend to go to sleep in other words they go off into their world and I am in mine, everythings hunky dorey. When I am writing however its a very different story (pardon the pun). When I am writing the walls between their world and mine break down for a while and I am seeing the characters on a near daily basis. Even when I am not at the keyboard they are poping into my head, telling me what their up to in their world (which by the way is usually much more exciting than what’s going on in mine – damn them) or invading my dreams. When I am writing they don’t leave me alone for a minute.
The problem with people you see on a daily basis that are doing way interesting things is you get attached to them. It’s part human nature and part narcissism after all, they are a part of you. But I think that the author who says they don’t form relationships of a sort with their characters is almost certainly lying. Which brings me to the tears in my eyes.
Unfortunately I am a sucker for tragedy, I love unhappy endings. I can even trace the moment I realised it. Back in the early 80’s there was quite a popular and quite good science fiction series called blakes 7. For four years I followed Blakes crew religously becoming more and more attached to the characters as they went. As they exited the story characters didn’t leave, they died and when they died, I grieved. In the final episode all the characters died (or at least that’s what I saw), worse still they died having failed to achieve their goals and in a pointless way, betrayed by the man that started it all. In other words, a tragic ending. Anyone watched Romeo and Juliette recently? There is something noble yet unsettling about tragedy. We grieve for what could have been, we are horrified by what has occured. I have to confess I like them. There is something wrong with me.
Tragedy doesn’t always involve death, or at least not in my idea of life. Tragedy happens where ever a promise will be forever fullfilled, where the dream is snatched away. The fairytale sports team that goes from zero to the final only to loose badly, that’s tragedy. The little guy taking on a corporate giant only to get squashed, that’s tragedy. Someone took away our happy ending and left us with what ifs, time to grieve and curse at the cruel world.
Now being a writer a predilection for tragedy and developing an attachment to characters might be seen as not a good combination. I am here to tell you – bloody right. That’s the problem with tragedy, no emotional investment, no promises unfullfilled. If you don’t care to start with there’s no let down. So it’s the ones that you care about the most that suffer the most, they have the furtherst to fall. The tragedy of tragedy is you only hurt the ones you love.
So now you know my little secret. Me tissues and writing, three things that go together. It’s not very macho but then we can’t all be Arnie. After all, somebody has to deliver the bad news.