Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Just waiting around for me to come

My feelings were hurt the day I did the math and figured out that my parents waited NINE MONTHS after getting married to get pregnant with me.

Up until this point, I figured that they got married just for the sole purpose of getting pregnant, and therefore having...me. What else would they want in life but a beautiful daughter? What were they doing in those nine months that were better than having a newborn baby? I guess I always just pictured them sitting around, yearning for me, never really living until they had me.

Pretty self-absorbed, right? (My sisters, if reading this, will not be surprised at all that I felt like the whole of our parents' younger lives were just a series of angst-filled, empty moments until I came along to give them purpose and joy.)

Since then, I often wonder how many children believe that they're parents' lives started when they were born.

How many authors feel that way about our characters? Like our characters have been sitting in some dark place somewhere, just waiting for us to discover them, and the only moments that really matter in their lives are the ones that we put down on paper. Anything before that? Insignificant, because it's not a part of their time with us.

I recently read a book where I felt like the love interest was created for the sole purpose of giving the main character someone to hook up with. His past was alluded to, but never explored. He didn't have any identity outside of the context of the main character. He pretty much could have been substituted for anyone and it wouldn't have made that much difference.

I love when I'm reading a novel, and I get this sense of knowing the characters, their pasts, what led them to the point in this story, where I don't feel that the characters were just sitting around, only existing when the plot conveniently says they exist. I want them to feel like REAL people, ones that I could be friends with, fall in love with, or, in some cases, hate. Ones that I'll talk to my husband about and he'll ask me, "Wait, are you talking about real people or book people?" (To which I respond, "Does it matter?")

I love even more when I'm writing and a character's voice comes into my head, and I have to discover who she is and what made her that way. My story may only cover a few months in her life, but I love finding out what existed BEFORE that time that she came into my mind.

What makes a character real to you? What helps you connect to a character?

4 comments:

  1. Your post cracked me up. I wonder what my daughter will think of the SEVEN years we were married before she came along??

    Characters are why I read, so characters who fall flat, I find really irritating, and sort of pointless.

    You can ask my almost anything about my people, and I could tell you. I think about them when I drive, listen to music... a lot. So, for me, I think it's just taking the time to get to know my people as I write them.

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  2. I usually have to cut my first three or four chapters because I explore the characters SO MUCH that it's way more than the reader needs to know. You know?
    Good post.

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  3. 1) We all know that I'm the favorite and that our parents life didn't REALLY begin until I came along. Obviously this is fact since I am awesome.
    2) I'll tell CW all about my book characters to which he sometimes has to ask me the same question. (To which I usually reply to same way as you...does it matter? Sisters from the womb? I think so!)

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  4. Love this post! I love character driven stories. My favorite quote, "Does it matter?"!!! And I reply with a resounding NO! :)

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