Visiting Old [Fictional] Friends
I love characters. Characters who are funny, characters who are sweet but try to hide it, characters who have strange quirks and don’t care who knows about it. Plot’s lovely, evocative writing adds a lot to my enjoyment, but if the characters don’t grab me, I won’t enjoy a book.
I think I create pretty good characters. (At least the male ones – I’m still working through my issues with writing female romantic leads, but I’m pretty pleased with Tara, the MC of Shining Armor, due out April 2 from Liquid Silver Books). I love my boys. But I love other people’s boys, too. Do you guys remember S.E. Hinton’s books? I fell in love with the characters from The Outsiders with full pre-teen passion. When that book was over, I would have happily read about the characters cleaning the house, going to school, watching TV… anything, no plot needed, just so I could get my fix. When there was a mention of them in one of Hinton’s other books (Rumblefish, maybe? Or That was Then, This is Now?) I was like a cat on really good ‘nip. It was perfect – my boys were still okay, and living their fictional lives.
Dark Horse is the first book I ever wrote, the first thing I tried to get published, and I had no idea how long books were supposed to be. So I just wrote. I wrote the main story, the one that’s told in Dark Horse and Out of the Darkness, and then I wrote a lot of little extras, because I wanted to see how my boys were doing. I missed them, and I wanted to visit.
I said I wouldn’t write any more in the series, because I felt like I’d left the boys in a good place, and because I’d already written so damn much! But then I started thinking about the guys again, wondering if they were okay… and wondering how well they’d stand up to a crisis. Of Dark and Light (due out March 26 from Dreamspinner Press!) is the book that came from me putting them through that crisis.
Traditional fiction is pretty rigid about what constitutes a story: we all know the plot graph from English class, and writers know what publishers are looking for. But the world is changing. Fan fiction, I think, did a lot of this, with writers playing with characters created by others, giving them new adventures and new worlds. But maybe it’s time for original fiction to catch up. With e-publishing, we’re no longer so limited by how much it costs to print a short story, or the challenges of distribution. Maybe e-publishing will lead to authors writing their own time stamps and AUs and all the other fun little fandom traditions.
I’d love to see it, as a reader and as a writer. When I really fall in love with a character, and the book ends, I don’t want the relationship to be over! I know we can’t go steady anymore, but couldn’t we at least have a few reunion dates?
Which books have left you guys with that aching sense of sadness at the end, just because you don’t get to hang out with the characters anymore? Would you like it if your favorite authors wrote little extras with the characters you love, or is your own imagination enough?