How Real Are Your Characters to You?

Are you ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes, and how real are your characters to you?

This is the latest subject of Robin Round Blog. And it’s a doozy. Because when I write, I not only become the characters, I become every living thing. And not so living. Like a car. I don’t know how much I actually relate to the 1957 Chevy convertible owned by protagonist, Lee Alvarez (see left). But I do know if I hurt its fender, I will feel its pain.

I pound on the keyboard switching between characters in a positively schizophrenic manner. It’s kinda frightening. I remember when I was writing Death Runs in the Family, the third book of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries. I had just gotten to a place in the scene where two of the running characters, cats Tugger and Baba, were catnapped. I’m not sure why I had to – who can remember – but I abandoned my writing for several days. Thus the cats. Some silliness about the real world calling.

Anyway, when I left the little darlings in the story, they’d been snatched and stowed in the back of a station wagon heading for Las Vegas. In fiction time, they were trapped in their carriers for less than four hours. But in Heather Time, it was days. The hours ticked by. It weighed on me. I would try to give myself an occasional sharp jolt of reality, but myself didn’t care. In the middle of the third night I jerked to a sitting position in bed, jostling my husband awake.

He said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I have to go rescue the cats. They’ve had no food or water for three days.”

There was a pause. “What cats? They’re sleeping at the foot of the bed.” Of course, he meant our real life cats, Ellie and Yulie.  “Not those cats,” I replied and I have to admit, somewhat churlishly. “Tugger and Baba. In the story.”

Another pause. “Oh,” he said, rolling over and going back to sleep. I leaped out of bed and went to the computer where I stayed writing my heart out until seven or eight that morning. When I finished, Tugger and Baba were rescued, well-fed, warm, safe, happy, and loved. Only then could I stagger back to bed. But I slept sounder than I had the previous two nights.

And that, my friends, is a tested, tried, and true lunatic writer. Or at least, this lunatic writer.

Below are the other contributors to Robin Round Blog, fine writers all:

Victoria Chatham
Marci Baun
Margaret Fieland
Judith Copek
A.J. Maguire
Connie Vines
Rachael Kosinski
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman
Kay Sisk
Diane Bator
Helena Fairfax
Skye Taylor
Rhobin Courtright

16 responses to “How Real Are Your Characters to You?”

  1. Now, I must admit I don’t have the motional feeling for inanimate objects like cars and fenders, but I get animals. And I love your story about the two cats – glad you didn’t let them suffer too long.

    • Beverley, I suffered, too! Won’t happen again, if I can do anything about it. Such is the life of a writer, right? We really get into our stories.

  2. Awe! I haven’t had that with animal characters, but there have definitely been times when I’ve left my characters in a real pickle and I have light anxiety until I can get back to my keyboard and save them! I used to write in the early morning before class and then could hardly pay attention to the professors because I was too busy plotting an escape for my heroes. 🙂

  3. OMG! I would be so worried about those cats. My WIP has a kidnapped cat as well, and I didn’t like it one bit until the cat was rescued. Would love to read that book.

    • Judy, I know how you feel. I can’t stand it when an animal is in jeopardy, even in a book. I remember someone who’d asked me to read their book left the dog out in the rain and it just never got mentioned again. I called her on it. I said, is that dog still out in the rain? She had no idea what I was talking about, thought about it, and went back and had the character bring the dog inside. My feeling is every living creature in your book should be resolved. It can also be a wonderful character beat. I tend to worry about it otherwise and it destroys the story for me. Hmmmm. I’m sounding very weird.
      Heather Haven recently posted…How Real Are Your Characters to You?My Profile

  4. Thank you for a very entertaining post (though only yesterday, my guru on writing matters, Florence Weinberg, told me off for using “very”).
    I have a post up on my blog about cat love and dog love. You might related to that.

  5. I like the way you add real life (love and adventures of cats) into your stories. I can related to your husband’s puzzlement about your fictional cats. Even though my husband won’t admit it, he finds my quirky writer personality very entertaining.

  6. Cats! Great opportunists, but you gotta love them. Great story example and I think lunacy is part and parcel of being a writer, so no worries.

  7. I love that you were so concerned for your fictional cats and bet your real life cats are spoiled to death. Interesting take on the feeling the Chevy’s bumped fender. I like your illustrations, too.

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