December 13, 2013

Casual Friday: A Letter to the Characters

The other day, I realized how much I owe to my characters, specifically Alex and Miles from my debut, ASK AGAIN LATER. I've said it before, and I'll say it again and again until I die of it: you can have the most interesting concept in the world, and the tightest plot, and the prettiest prose, but if your characters don't hook the reader, you're lost. I was lucky enough that Alex and Miles grabbed not only my agent's interns, but also my agent and eventually my editor. And hopefully, when the book comes out, they'll grab readers, too. It might make me sound like a crazy person, but I wanted a way to show my gratitude to them.

So here it is: a letter of appreciation to Alex and Miles, long overdue.

To My Fictional and Often Frustrating Children,

Sometimes it floors me how you can be so similar and so different from your original incarnations. Like the story, you adapted to the situations I put you in and the twists I thrust upon you. The longer you stuck around, the more you grew. It's hard to believe there was a time where Alex didn't check a room before she walked in, or Miles didn't mind invaders in his personal bubble. Yet, at your cores, you were fundamentally the same as you are now.

I feel like I should apologize for all the things I've done to you throughout the years, but I know you'd both probably flip me off. It's too late for apologies. (Especially after all the times I killed Miles.) It's all those things--the ones that still happen in ASK AGAIN LATER, and the ones that were cut and rewritten and lost to the abyss of my hard drive--that made you who you are. You have lived countless lives in those drafts, and you let me see every side of you, every tiny facet of your personalities, all your quirks. You were real to me, in the way that a person becomes real the more time you spend with them.

Alex - Like your bafflingly red hair suggests, you are my lobster in the tank. You are my history buff, my pillow fort constructor, my hopeful warrior. What never changed in you is also your best quality--your refusal to give in, your overwhelming need to defeat the obstacles in your path. You give color to your own world. I know I don't draw as many pictures of you as I do of Miles, but that's because Miles is still a puzzle I'm trying to figure out, and you're already clear as day to me.

We would be friends if we met in real life. 

Let's not beat around the bush--readers will read for you. They will read for your voice, your decisions, your life. Maybe they'll like you and maybe they won't, but you carry this story. Undeniably, you carry it. And you always have, even before your hair was red.

Miles - Oh, Miles. My poor baby Miles. What is there to say? You didn't even start out in this story, do you remember that? You started out in a sci-fi novel. A long, long time ago. And then you became a secondary character in a contemp. And then you said, "[long string of German expletives]," and refused to be confined to the secondary character position. And now you're here. And you're one of my favorite characters I've ever written.

We would most definitely not be friends. We would probably never speak to one another. And that's okay. You weren't made to please me.

Readers will call you a love interest, but part of me doesn't want readers to fall in love with you. At least, not romantically. I want them to love you the way I love you, which is also the way I love Alex and this book. All the ways, all the time. The way where I can look at Jell-O and think of you eating it, or hear a particularly pretty piece of German and wonder what it would sound like if you said it.

It's the two of you that made me keep coming back to this story after I'd already beaten it to death, and convinced me to rework it until it was better. Over and over again. If it weren't for you I wouldn't have an agent and an editor. I wouldn't have a book deal. I would probably have a lot of student debt and more stress than I ever want and I would be depressed and listless and shambling through life.

Now I can only hope that you live on with the readers.

                                                                     Auf Wiedersehen, darlings, 
                                                                                      Your Bewildered and Grateful Creator

[If you could say something to your characters, what would it be? Would you thank them? What would you thank them for? Leave your answer in the comments--or, better yet, reply with a post of your own!]


Bridget said...

Love this! Especially "You were real to me, in the way that a person becomes real the more time you spend with them" - I know just what you mean. :)

Leandra Wallace said...

What a neat, heartfelt idea! here goes!

Amity: Thank you for being more brave than I could ever be & for fighting through your grief instead of letting it consume you.
Patrick: You proved to me that you were worthy of being there for Amity. I'm glad I didn't kill you.
Benjamin: Oh, my charming Gentleman Ben. I'm going to make it up to the third book.

So this was fun! Looking forward to getting to know your characters one day. Also, I love other languages in books, so some German, yay!

tawney13 said...

I love that you wrote a letter to your characters. I also love the sketches. Ok if i had to say something to my characters is "Line up in a single file line. Stop talking all at once so I can get your stories down. First in line go!"
I have a problem with having too many ideas and never finishing the one I'm working on.
Can't wait for your book!!!

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