By Keith Fisher
I was attending a writer’s conference once when I heard someone make an observation. In essence, she said that it was good to be around people who understood a statement about trying to get her characters to behave.
We writers are a weird lot—we spend our days, and late nights, listening to our creations. Then we sentence them to death, or worse, without any regret. We tell ourselves it’s all for the good of the book.
I know, I know, you’ve all seen it before, but recently, I finished watching Stranger Than Fiction. I hated the build up, but I loved the ending. Like most of you, I knew what the story was about before it started. Overall, the parts about the writer were very gratifying, but I have some questions for you:
Did you cry when the author couldn’t bring herself to kill Harold? How many of you could identify with her, to the point of feeling anxiety? Wasn’t it nice to know there are others like you?
I don’t want to spoil the movie, but when you see it, ask yourself, how real are the characters you create? If you saw them in a crowded airport, would you know them? If a character walked into your writing place, would you need to be introduced to them?
If you answer these questions the way I did, then you’re a writer. If you sometimes need to stop the car and get out because you recognize a scene from your story, then you are a writer. If you schedule vacations around research, then you are a writer. If you watch the spectators instead of the football game, then you are a writer. If you stand at the edge of a high place, trying to imagine what it would be like to fall off, then you are a writer.
There are many examples of this kind of behavior—perhaps you could name many more, but now that we established that you are a writer, start working on it. Be warned, however, people will think you’re odd when you try to explain the concept of a character who won’t behave or leave you alone. Then you will know that it’s not the fiction that’s strange—it’s the authors, but take heart, you’re not alone.