As a writer, your characters are everything to you. They are the key ingredients in any tale and they are the ones who bring your story to the world on your behalf. You spend countless hours developing their personalities, giving them complex histories, and breathing life into them.
Because of this, it’s only natural that you grow attached to your characters. Goodness knows you’ve spent enough time with them! When you send them out into the world to be published, you can’t help but feel like a parent saying goodbye to your child on the first day of kindergarten. Will they do well out there? What if they need you for something? What if the other kids are mean to them??
Stranger than Fiction
It’s plain to see that our characters are more than just words on a page to us. We form bonds with them. Unique, complicated, unbreakable bonds. And while there are innumerable ways you can be affected by your imaginary friends, here are five relationships every writer is certain to have with their characters…
1. You think of them as your friends
Wherever you go, they’re with you. You have long, silent conversations with them, they keep you company while you have coffee alone, or accompany you on afternoon walks. When you start to write, suddenly you feel as if you’re surrounded by familiar faces. They’re sitting right there beside you. Or maybe even begging you not to do that terrible thing you have planned for chapter 23.
You laugh to think how they would react to things. You know them on the same level of intimacy as you do close friends. There are no secrets between you. They are sources of joy, amusement, and conversation. And sometimes, they can even bring you comfort and inspiration in difficult times. At any rate, you’ve grown to rely on these invisible people and to regard them as companions.
2. You think of yourself as their god
Inside every writer is a control freak. It could be buried deep or brashly running the show, but it is part of what makes us write. It is connected with that need to arrange every single detail and action in the world around you. Your characters are subject to this tendency more than anyone, as they are forced to act upon your every whim. From time to time, it’s hard not to think of yourself as the god of your inner world while you move your characters toward their predetermined destinies. You did create them, after all.
You could be a cruel deity, putting them through innumerable torments for the purpose of ‘character development.’ Or you might be a loving motherly one who adores your creations like children. Or you might fall somewhere in between.
3. You live vicariously through them
A large part of many stories rise from the desire to see our wishes and fantasies fulfilled. Daring adventures, passionate romances, and amazing abilities are all things we yearn for, but they may be impossible to experience in real life. However, with only a blank sheet of paper, you can live out every last one of your desires through your character’s eyes. They become an important link between you and everything you’ve always wanted to do, see, or accomplish.
That guy you’ve always wanted to chew out in real life for being such a jerk? You can’t explode at him without some backlash. However, your characters can verbally tear the literary version of him to pieces with no consequences. Becoming an astronaut and blasting into space is an extremely difficult thing to do, but writing about being an astronaut is a lot easier. Superpowers, unimaginable wealth, and and journeys to fantastical realms are all possible for them, and it can satisfy your longing to write about them living your dreams. Through your characters, you can accomplish and experience anything. You are only limited by your imagination.
4. You kinda maybe sorta have a crush on them
Okay, nobody’s proud of it. But you can’t deny it, either. You most likely created your romantic lead with your dream lover in mind, or at least with some very alluring aspects. As you continue to write and the character becomes even more real, the plot of their love story thickens, and before you know it you begin to develop feelings for them. Your heart aches when they go through pain, they’re always on your mind, and you catch yourself thinking “why can’t my dates be more like them?” But it’s not your fault! You wrote them to be attractive!
Suddenly, it’s too late to stop it. You’ve got a crush on them! But, you know, that’s actually a good thing. Your romance scenes will be even more powerfully charged, because you’re not only invested as a writer, you’re invested on a deep emotional level as well.
5. You let go of your pain through their stories
Into every life a little rain must fall. Perhaps you’ve had a drizzle. Or maybe you’ve suffered a torrential downpour. At any rate, you’ve probably collected a number of emotional scars just by virtue of being a person this long. Since writers are often very sensitive, emotional people, these wounds can run deep. Sometimes it can feel like you’ll carry this pain forever. But this is where your characters can come in to lend a hand again.
Channel your anger into your villain’s hatred to make it real. Use the anxiety and frustration of going through a difficult financial time to fuel your hero’s struggle. That heartbreak you can’t seem to forget can become a beautiful story, and guiding your protagonist through the storm and seeing them come out a better person will make you stronger too. They will carry this weight for you. That’s part of their job. Observing your personal hurts through your character’s story and seeing them come out of it alive is one of the most powerful forms of therapy I can think of.
No matter what way you look at it or how you try to avoid it, characters are an extension of our personalities and personal experiences, distilled into a whole new entity. They are fragments of ourselves, shaped and sculpted into life-like personas we and our readers come to know and love. And as they come to life on the page, it’s inevitable that they will do the same thing inside your heart.
So rejoice, writer! Cherish these friendships. The love you put into them is as real as anything else.