Killing Your Darlings (And How Insanely Real Characters Are)

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Writers joke about how psychotic they appear, what with their delight in torturing their characters. Alas, that stereotype is not true for me. Hurting my characters is one of my biggest “writerly” problems.

But conflict is essential to stories and conflict presupposes a struggle which presupposes pain. If I wrote fairy tales, it would be easier, I’m sure. Unfortunately, being absolutely crazy, I write tragedies.

As much as I love to cry (over fiction, I mean), I love to feel the bliss of a couple hopelessly in love and laugh along to the good natured bickering of a happy family. But I just know (and it always proves true) that the lovers will be parted before the marriage and the family will be split by misfortune. And my story is even more painful, for people lose both lives and souls.

As the author, you’d think I could change that, right? Uh, well … not really. The characters do what they do and the events happen as they happen. Bending reality would be false.

I believe the only thing that enables me to continue writing is the constant reminder: “These people are a figment of my imagination! Such things never happened for real! If I wanted, I could just change it. These people don’t exist!”

These sentences are full of error. For one, I couldn’t change events and characters without ruining the essence of the story. Secondly, while my characters aren’t real in one sense of the word, there are people going through the same kinds of struggles who are very real indeed. And of course, pulling myself out from the story world is hardly a good idea.

But at least it keeps me sane.

Writing is painful (that explains why I’m not writing my story now. Hint: I’m at a death scene). Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way characters walk into my head and simply bloom before my eyes; the way they choose their own destinies as if they were human; the way all the minor characters clamor for a bigger role; the way they refuse to be as bad as I planned they would be – it’s an absolutely magical experience.

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