Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Till The End Do We Part

Do you love your characters? Personally, I would be surprised if you said no, but just the other day I was reading a blog post by Tamela Hancock Murray in which she talked about an author who used what appears to be a type of ambulance chasing decision process. When vampires were popular, he started writing about vampires, though he didn’t care anything about vampires.  I’ve got mixed feelings about that. If we seriously want to call ourselves writers and not just authors, I think there comes a time when we have suck it up and write what people want to read, not just whatever it is that we prefer to read. But I also see her point about the problems of writing about it being difficult to write well when our heart isn’t in it. In part of her argument, she mentions that the author she is referring to hasn’t made it into publication. Though that may seem to settle the issue, it may not mean anything; there are many authors who write only what they personally want to read who are also not in print.

But she raises a point about a character being hated by his creator that I feel is worth our consideration. I suppose there are two types of love here. I think what Tamela is referring to is whether at the end of the day we are glad that the character made an appearance in our story, but there is another kind of love we have for our characters. I love Sara and Ellen and Geoff and Mark and Martin and Neal. I love spending as much time with them as I can. Faithful readers of this blog know I sometimes visit them on Fiction Friday. It hurts me when I have to put them through pain, even though I know it is best for their stories. But there are other characters that I dislike. I don’t like Mr. Squashed Head from For the Love of a Devil. I’m glad he’s in the book, the story wouldn’t have been complete without him, but I really don’t like the man. I don’t care if you tell him that either.

CBA or no CBA, I really don’t think we must love our characters, but I do think we must be passionate about our characters. For most of us, this isn’t a paying gig, life is too short for us to write stories about characters who don’t move us in some way. We should love the protagonist from page one until we reach The End or it will be hard to convince other people to stick with him, but with the other characters all that is required is a strong emotional response. It’s okay to hate the villain. In fact, if we don’t we haven’t done our job properly. So, love your characters, or hate them, but don’t be neutral.