Death, accidents, suicide, heartaches, disasters… fictional characters have seen it all. A single fictional character may go through all sorts of horrible things in one book, and I think that that’s okay as long as it serves the story. In a recent discussion with my fiancé, I said that I don’t mind hurting my characters if it moves the plot along. After all, it’s just a story. It’s not like I’m harming a real person by the words I write, so I don’t feel bad.
I think it’s important to maintain some emotional detachment from the story and characters. I’ve learned that the hard way. After nearly four years of keeping a book on hold because I liked my characters too much to decide who would win at the end, I think one should think about what’s best for the story, not what’s best for them.
Now before I go any further, I would like to say that I’m not a mean person, honest! I don’t like seeing people get hurt, and I absolutely hate hearing about the death of someone I know. However, I recognise that my characters are figments of my imagination, so I don’t feel bad if I do something less than pleasant to them.
That’s not to say that I don’t feel anything while I’m writing, but when I do, my feelings are directed towards the story as a whole, not to a specific character. If the plot is misbehaving, I feel frustrated. If the story is moving at a fast pace, I feel exhilarated. If I’m writing a happy or a funny scene, I’m generally in a good mood. When it comes to characters, however, I try to avoid empathising with them and work towards reaching a satisfying ending. I feel that this makes everything seem more believable and realistic, as I have not let my feelings interfere with the natural course of the story.
However, when it comes to reading other books or watching movies, I’m more than willing to invest my feelings into the characters. If I like a character, I ended up worrying about it, feeling embarrassed for it, getting upset if they are hurt or die… and more often than not I will either cry or have a lump in my throat.
How do you feel about your characters and other people’s characters? Do you get emotionally attached, or do you just focus on writing the best story regardless of the consequences? Do you think I’m mean? D=