Why write (part 2) - characters and connecting
How’s your weekend been? I’ve been up at my dad’s place, which is near Woodford in Queensland – home to the Woodford Folk Festival and, for the last two years, Splendour in the Grass - before Byron snatched it back. The view from up there is spectacular, featuring the Glass House mountains and stretching all the way to the sea. At night you can add in the glittering strip of lights from Caloundra to Brisbane. Last night, the full moon was in the mix, too. Look, I captured it for you - not very well, admittedly, but hey, I did my best :)
Anyway, back to business. Why write? I mean, it basically boils down to sitting in a room by yourself, going a little bit nutso. So why do it? Do you write? What are your reasons for doing it? I always like knowing why other people choose to put themselves through it.
For me, a major reason is my characters. I probably get over-involved with them. Sometimes they arrive fully formed, but mostly, I get to know them during the first draft. By the time it’s completed they are very real to me, and often that means subsequent re-drafts are about making sure the story is true to the characters, rather than changing the characters to suit the story.
You could say characters are a mishmash of ideas, observations, people you know, people you don’t know but want to know, parts of yourself … And probably all of that is true. What I do know is that they are rarely who I thought they were in the beginning, and they end up being very separate to me.
This has an odd side effect, and it’s one of the things I find hardest about writing. When the story gets published, those characters are out of my reach. When Raw Blue, my first book, was published, instead of feeling happy and excited, or even just relieved, what I actually felt was an overwhelming sense of grief. This, I’ve discovered, does not get easier, and with Night Beach it was possibly worse. I know the obvious answer is to do a sequel, and that probably helps, but you’re still not getting access to exactly the same world. Characters, like everybody else, change and move on.
BUT! There is an antidote to all this, and it’s another reason why I write. It’s the emails and feedback you get from readers who have in some way connected with whatever it is you’ve done. And usually what they talk about most are the characters. It gives me this lovely sense that the characters are out in the world, doing their thing, living on.
So now, if I read something, and I like it, I let the writer know. Sometimes it's impossible, though. When I was a kid, I read the Narnia stories and then asked my mum if she could get C.S. Lewis's address for me. I was gutted to find out he was dead!
How about you? Ever emailed a writer? Did you get a response?
PS If you’ve just arrived, you might want to consider checking out the GIVEAWAY mentioned in my previous post.