Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Now I Am a Real Boy!"

Like most writers, I want my characters to be real. After I spend enough time with them, they seem real to me. They start making decisions without me and taking the story in new, usually quite interesting, directions. When I share chapters with my critique group, the characters become a little more real. "She wouldn't do that!" they exclaim, as if they were talking about a close friend. That's when the characters move from existing in my head to existing in some forcefield of space created by the energy of the critique group. But in a way, at that point, my characters are still Pinocchio-the-puppet, or the pre-fever Velveteen Rabbit. They aren't truly REAL.

I recently gave the "final" copy of my novel to a bunch of friends to read, most of whom knew little or nothing about the story or the characters. The first reader's comments came in. She talked about the characters like she knew them. She felt things for them, and when one of them died, she cried. As I read her comments, I thought, "Now they are REAL." What a remarkable feeling!

Like Pinocchio or the Velveteen Rabbit, my characters couldn't truly become REAL without experiencing love from the person they were created for - the reader.

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