Sharing My Characters

October 20 2009

Last week I had a wonderful chat with a friend who had stayed up late the night before to finish my debut novel. ("Debut novel!" Love that phrase.)

She said it was my fault she was groggy when she left for work that morning, because she stayed up so late reading my book.   

How wonderful is that? She thought my book was so suspenseful that she couldn’t put it down. Of course I meant the book to read that way, but couldn’t be sure of the result until someone could actually buy Buried Heart and experience the peril and the adventure. 

She said she was enjoying the romance between Luis and Lauren, but wanted to know why I had one of the characters do something that might hurt the other.

I felt guilty as charged. How could I let my dear character make such a mistake? How could I plan for that character to do something I myself would never do? 

My defense was that an author isn’t supposed to fall so in love with her characters that she makes life easy for them. If everything goes well and the people in my story make no mistakes, there’s no conflict, no suffering the consequences, no discovery. No growth.  No story.

My character made a serious mistake, discovered he or she had been fooling herself or himself and hurting another, and then paid for it.

After our discussion I realized something that surprised me. The characters who have been living secretly and privately in my head for a long time are now out in public. Other people know them too. Others have seen and felt Luis and Lauren when they kiss, tease and challenge each other; when they nearly get killed; and as they are falling in love. 

I have to get used to sharing them.