Missing Characters

I am juggling a good number of projects right now. Writing cover letters, tweaking resumes, writing for games, thoroughly reworking some old stories to get them ebookified as quickly as possible. It’s all taken time away from my novel (working title “The Fairworth Chronicles”). When I woke up this morning, I missed it. I missed the characters. I keep wondering what they’re up to, what they will be up to when I can get their activities out of my head and onto the page.

Missing fictional people is odd. If they’re other writers’ characters, they’re seldom farther than your bookshelf (or e-reader, if you swing that way). I’ve missed others’ characters sometimes, especially the ones who have grown and changed. Brust’s Vlad Taltos is a fun one to miss, because he’s easy to revisit at various points over his development. The Vlad books are also short enough to plow through one in an afternoon. Zelazny’s Corwin is much the same. Others take more work to visit: Gaiman’s Shadow, Le Guin’s Ged, Chabon’s Kavalier, even Moorcock’s Hawkmoon. They don’t live quite as close to the surface of their stories. (There might be something about first person narration lurking in there, although Gene Wolfe’s Arthur Ormsby is not the easiest to visit in spite of the way he colors the narration of The Knight and The Wizard.) At any rate, even if they don’t live next door, other writer’s characters live on familiar roads, and getting to them is more a matter of time than of work.

Missing your own fictional people is harder. Even if they’ve thoroughly established residence in your head, as Maedoc and Zahra have in mine, getting to them takes work. Oh, sometimes it’s easy. It feels like your characters are sitting right next door, with a full pot of coffee and an extra cup. Usually, though, it’s a cross-country hike. Often it is painfully uphill. Sometimes there are giants at the top, playing you for a pin in a game of downhill boulder bowling.

Regardless, it is exciting to get there. You’re not quite sure what the characters are going to do, whether they’re going to cooperate, whether they’re going take your story and run with it so hard you’ll have to chase it. Or maybe your characters don’t want to run at all. They just want to sit there and leave you feeling very much like you do trying to get your three year-old to put on her shoes so you can go grocery shopping. When it’s been a slog to even get to them, this is inordinately frustrating.

The hard thing is also the cool thing: you don’t know until you get there. That’s what makes missing your own characters more exciting than anything else. There’s risk. We know, all of us, that adventures do not always end happily. We also know that unhappy endings might better resemble a hospital waiting room than a rubble-strewn battlefield. When you miss your own characters and go looking for them, it’s an adventure. That’s the important thing to remember, even if other clutter is blocking your front door. Go out through a window if you have to. The adventure is worth it.

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