Real Characters

I don’t know where characters come from.  It should be obvious. I make them up, right? But it’s not that simple.

If I make them up, why do they spring to life fully formed? Why do I so often feel their actions are out of my control? And why do they seem so dang alive? It’s as if they’ve been out there on some other plane, waiting for me to tell their story and set them loose on the world.

I’’m working on revisions right now, aligning my sense of the book with my very patient editor’s needs and the demands of the market. It’s difficult. It means I have to change the story that flowed so readily–tweak it to fit a template. From my experiences with my agent, I know these changes usually result in a better story. But it’s not easy.

A lot of writers refuse to change their work to make it more marketable, and I can understand that. There’s something more to those flashes of inspiration than “making stuff up.” Wherever it comes from, it feels like magic–something sacred. With all this woo-woo theorizing, you’d think I’d feel that way, too, but although my characters demand I stay true to them, they demand something else even more loudly:

They want to become real.

And like the Velveteen Rabbit, they can only do that by being loved–not just by me, but by readers. And the more minds they can inhabit, the more alive they’ll be.

It’s what they want, and I owe it to them. They–whoever they are, and whatever world they’re from–give me the gift of their stories, and in return, I give them life.