Thursday, January 20, 2011

Falling In Love: The Great Romance Between Writer and Character

Falling In Love: The Great Romance Between Writer and Character
Talking to my dog about drama, love, hate, desire, envy ... what a story!!

Recently, I was considering the question of peace, which doesn't happen often while writing fiction. There's all that drama, love, hate, desire, envy and so on. Peace, with any luck, comes at the end of the novel.

I was considering this aimlessly as I lay with my head on Phoebe's warm flank one cold winter's day. Phoebe, being the sensitive, intuitive creature she is, immediately tuned into my musings and suggested we consider the question of love instead, which she quite rightly observed was a precursor to true peace. As she is an expert in both, I decided to go with her feelings.

"It can't be mushy love, all slurpy with wet noses and such," I reminded her. "Not that I don't love your slurpy, wet nosed kisses, but these are writers I'm writing for. Love, hate, war, peace, birth, death — the human drama — we can't be too obvious."
She turned away and began to slowly, lovingly lick her paw.

"Characters," I went on, scratching her behind her ear so as to get her attention. When I finished scratching, she glanced back at me with, well, the only word I can think of is love. I got all gushy and warm and silly and put my arms around her. We rubbed noses and I buried my face in her fur. She stretched out and I laid my head on her warm neck.

"Struggle," I went on. "Writers struggle a lot...
It's not a dog's life, you know, being a writer," I told Phoebe. "We write, we struggle, our passion ignites, unleashes the white heat that drives the pen without thought. But then, the door closes, we struggle again, scratch a bit, make tea, feel sorry for ourselves, maybe take our dog for a walk in hopes of inspiration returning."

WALK! She sat up, her tongue lolling with a the giddiest of grins. WALK! It was the rapid tail wagging that gave her away.

"Calm down, sweet girl," I told her. "I have an article to write. Then we walk."

The tail wagging wound slowly down. She turned on her back so I could rub her tummy. It was then that inspiration passed between us and I exclaimed, "That's it! The emotional roller coaster ride of being a writer. The waxing and waning of inspiration!"

Phoebe groaned and turned away in preparation for one of her long naps. I could see I was losing her.

I explained, "The answer is both simple and complex, Phebes. Because so long as we write and take risks with the writing, the journey never ends..."

She was beginning to snore. Kissing her softly, I returned to the computer and began to write:

For the writer, where life ends and fiction begins or where fiction ends and life begins is never quite clear.
And that is, I find, one of the great joys of writing fiction. For the life inside me, the possibilities of experience, adventure and understanding that exist in the depths of my imagination, just waiting to step forth, are not only endless but endlessly exciting, mystifying and enriching.
Who will be my next cast of characters?
To what new landscape will they take me?
Who will step forth as my darkside character this time?
With whom shall I battle?
With whom shall I fall in love?

Falling in love — it always comes back to that! (Phoebe is right, you see!) How we writers love our characters, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly! Love is the beginning and the end: love of the characters, love of the process, love of our self that comes when we journey inward to discover a person we never knew we were, whether it be a hero, voyager, dragon slayer, shaman, or storyteller.
"There is no reality except the one contained within us. That is why so many people live such an unreal life. They take the images outside of them for reality and never allow the world within to assert itself." ~Herman Hesse

We're talking true love, not a one night stand! 
Taking your time developing the romance between writer and characters, writer and story, is pivotal. It takes a lot for this romance to flower. And like any great romance, it takes not only passion but also will. The will of a lover who is there for the long run. The will of a lover who refuses to give up when the first flush of romance is over and the work of the relationship begin. The will of the lover who knows the relationship is worth the struggle. Because we're not talking about a one night stand. Writing is not about instant gratification. No writer I know escapes without struggling with characters, story and most of all, self. But the payoff is better than anything you might imagine. For writing is a life journey. Unlike athletes, we never grow too old to play the game. We never grow too old to imagine, to struggle and to fall in love.

PS from Phoebe: May many soft, wet noses and wise creatures great and small come your way.
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  1. Thank you so much for the post! I was trying to spark a romance between two of my characters in the story I've been working on, but I couldn't think of how to start it.

  2. Just what I needed to read today. Thank you for the inspiration, I need it on my new journey.


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