As a writer, I create characters every day.
I think in glorious technicolour and now 4K how they would look and behave. I think in a volume of how they would sound through a beautiful Bose system, while as a creative writing teacher, I give examples of how to bring them to live. I use questionnaires to build a profile, teaching how to ask them awkward and embarrassing stuff, getting them to reveal who they are as if in some confessional. Their innermost secrets spilling for the writing student.
I get the students to care deeply about each character becoming obsessive about the slightest detail and then we start to ask them why. We become shrinks. Psychologically assessing them, turning them over like the next page wanting, no need to know more. I ask them to listen, not to just what their characters will say but how they say it, the tone and timbre of their voice. Is there an intended inflection? A hint of sarcasm?
I explain how eventually they won’t be able to sleep as their characters interrupt their sleeping thoughts as well as their waking thoughts. How they will start to question their own sanity as small voices whisper in their ears.
I know and understand all this yet still I write on autopilot then I stop. Silenced. No words.
Because I have forgotten to talk to my own character. I’ve distanced myself unknowingly.
I assumed that they were still with me and naturally as I already knew all this wonderful stuff and had a conscious comprehension into the deeper workings of characterisation, that is would automatically filter through into my writing without effort!
I had ignored them. As in all relationships, it takes work. Firstly, you need to be aware of the other person existence. My character had become secondary. I was busy writing other projects, teaching, running after the kids, and as any spouse or friend would be, they had started to get on with their own life and I wasn’t included. They were waiting for me to make the first move after months of pushing them away.
So I have had to bring in ‘date night’.
A time I set aside to get to know them again. The vast expanse is going to be a long ride before we are back on track, but now I realise it was me that walked away, I can walk back.
We talk about everyday stuff, the usual awkward stilted responses of how’s your day? What have you been up to in the last six months? or present. I even apologise. Promising to work harder on our relationship. I check in throughout each day, with a quick question ”What did you have for lunch? Did you have cake? How’s the new boyfriend?”
Improvements are slow but we are getting back on track. We will survive this having been friends, good friends even, for some years now.
I know one day she will go, maybe around book three, when I have finished telling their story. But until then I will question and listen to every word they have to say.