Before I dive into the main subject of this post, I wanted to share a quote from the late Bob Ross. I feel like it applies to writing just as much as painting, so just insert the words "write" and "pen-and-paper" where ever you feel like:
"Talent is nothing more that a pursued interest. With this technique, it is not necessary to draw a straight line or any kind of line for that matter. We begin with paint and brush--the object is to capture the dream quickly, while it is still alive."
Today I want to talk about characters. Not so much what makes a good character, or techniques for developing them, but more about why we can feel such a deep connection to them. Many writers have different things that sparked their initial desire to write: the joy of world building, the challenge of writing great plot, or creating magic systems. For me, it was the friendships I developed with the characters from Redwall, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings that first made me want to write. The hares of the Long Patrol from Brian Jacques books made me feel like I was part of their strange and thoroughly British circle. Harry, Ron, and Hermione felt like real kids I was hanging out with, getting into scrapes and learning magic. Frodo's inner struggles against the greed and corruption of the ring, along with the feelings of loneliness that came with it, spoke to me when I felt down and helpless. These were personal relationships, not just a passing identification with superficial qualities.
I remember the first time I cried while reading a book. I was young, maybe nine or ten, just finishing the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. I read the last sentence, closed the book, and stared at the cover. I couldn't understand the feelings bouncing around my head. I know now that I was dealing with a feeling of loss. The people I had known so well, that I had lived beside while I read, were gone. There was no more. I was devastated. Of course, as time went on I read more books and re-read Narnia. I came to accept that end-of-book feeling. I stopped crying after I finished a series and learned to cope with the end of a relationship with the characters. Then, when I read Lord of the Rings for the first time, I once more cried at the end. I still do, even when I watch the last scenes of the Return of the King. When the last book of The Wheel of Time comes out this year, I'll ball my head off. I may even take off work just so I can let myself wallow in sadness for a day.
This might all sound pathetic, but when you look closer, it begins to make more sense. One of the miracles of being a human is the ability to create. Some might say it's the one thing that carried over from the God that put us here (or space aliens, whatever). Not only can we build skyscrapers, make art, or write music, we can make new people. Think about that. Make new people. With a pen and paper, or keyboard I suppose, a writer can form a person so convincingly that his/her readers fall in love with them (romantically or otherwise). This is a fictional person that feels so real, and fills a hole in ourselves so thoroughly, that we actually grieve when the book ends. To me, this is the most wondrous thing I can think of. It speaks of our imagination, our mental reach, and our ability to dream.
It's incredible, and I completely fell for these author's creations. Isn't that the most amazing thing ever? If I could only do that for someone else, just once. Can you imagine? This is why I started to write. So far I haven't accomplished this goal, but I have managed to convince myself that Chale, Astrid, and Spigworth are real, at least in the very darkest, unused parts of my mind. I guess that's the first step.
What characters have you felt a bond with? Which books drew you in the most, and left you hollow inside when they ended?