It's time for another blog chain posting and once again I am following the fabulous Mary Lindsey. The question this time around is a two parter: Are your characters real people to you? And how much do you really know about them?
I'll start with the first question - but I am going to change it a bit to make it the more general - Are fictional characters real? The answer to that is unequivocally - yes.
It is this belief that made me as a child always turn of the Flintstones before the end sequence when poor Fred gets locked out of the house and bangs on the door, yelling, "WILMA!" I don't know why, I just felt so bad for poor Fred always getting locked out (and don't even get me started on the cereal commercials where Barney is always taking his cocoa pebbles) of his own house - that I couldn't stand to watch it.
It is this belief that will also forever make me sigh sadly when I think back on the cancellation of My So Called Life and how I will never know how things turned out between Angela and Jordan Catalano.
And it is this belief that makes it impossible for me to watch horror movies because even with squeezing my eyes shut and chanting the mantra, "it's not real, it's just a movie" I still get so freaked out that I even once screamed out loud in the middle of a crowded movie theatre. As if this wasn't bad enough the bad guys inevitably follow me home and I spend the next several days unable to go into a room without checking under beds and in closets to make sure the bad guys aren't there. Sigh, my poor baby boy, when he becomes old enough to worry about the boogie man, instead of reassuring him, I'll be right there trembling beside him.
These examples are from movies and television, but characters come alive in books as well. How else to explain the fury a bad book adaption can ignite or even the recent backlash against Meyer's Breaking Dawn?
So, yes fictional characters are very real to me, but what about my own? That answer is a bit more difficult. While I strive to understand my characters real motivations and figure out who they are it is difficult to feel that they are as truly "real" when I have given them sex-changes, killed their children, and changed their entire past, present, and future with a click of the mouse.
That isn't to say it's all evil calculation in my Frankenstein writing laboratory. When I'm plotting, thinking about character arcs, and re-writing I am in analytical brain mode and at that point my characters are just pawns - however, it is when I am sitting and writing the actual story that my characters will do or say something unexpected and then for a small flash they are real - they are aaalllliiiivvveee (as Leah would say)!!! It is during these moments that I truly get to know my characters.
And to answer the 2nd question - how much I know about my characters really depends upon how many of these moments I have. It was during one of these moments in my first novel that I found out my main character was allergic to bees, and then when I switched over to the analytical plotting part of my brain - it was like, "Hey, I can use that" and it became a major plot point. I think this is what I really love about the writing process - the way it requires that give and take between the critical and creative, and between the real and unreal.
All righty, that's it from me. Now hurry over to Archetype's blog for what I am certain will be an awesome psychological examination of character.