when characters become real

Tonight I cried over the death of a fictional character. No, I wasn’t reading a book. It was a character from my own imagination, in my own writing. I won’t say who it was or even what story it was in, but I will say that I have dreaded writing this scene for days.

How do the characters in my head become so real? They take over the writing, doing things I never expect. This time, though, I knew in advance that this person was going to have to die. I tried to find a way around it, but no, the death was inevitable. Finally, I braced myself and put on my loud music and wrote–and was startled to discover tears when I was halfway through the scene. It makes me wonder if there is something not quite right with me, that I can cry over a creation of my own. Yet, at that moment, it felt like a real person dying.

Is it a good thing, that they feel so real? When I’m really in the zone, the characters seem to come alive. It is more like I am watching their story unfold instead of writing it out. I recently became so horrified at something I had set up to happen to one of my characters that I couldn’t sleep until I had gone back to my computer to change it. Ultimately, I feel like this connection to the characters and what is right or wrong for them is helpful.

But it does make me wonder about the state of my own mind.

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3 Responses to when characters become real

  1. Lisa Hazard says:

    You are braver than I. I can’t stand killing them.

  2. Pamela says:

    Sometimes you just have to do it.

  3. Pam, if there’s something wrong with you, then there’s something wrong with all of us who call ourselves writers. ; ) I’ve cried over the death of a fictional character. I’ve cried many times over a particular scene in which two children are torn away from their grieving mother. No matter how many times I read the scene, I cry every time. And I’m the one who wrote it.

    I think the tears result from our being so emotionally involved in the characters. And we *must* be involved on that deep level, because if we’re not, the characters feel hollow and the writing isn’t genuine.

    There’s nothing wrong with us. We’re just doing our jobs. : )

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