This week one of my favorite authors, Susanna Kearsley talked about  Letting Go (The Heroine Addicts blog), saying good-bye to one’s characters. Writing that last scene in which they appear. And the wrench of sadness and loss this can bring a writer. Even if the character isn’t giving up the ghost, but simply walking off stage and out of the story.

In my comment on her blog, I said: It’s hard to let a character go, especially if he’s been a point of view character. I just did that on Friday, wrote the last scene from a secondary character’s pov, and the last scene before he walks out of the story to go his way. He was good company. I’ll miss him. Even though, as you say, there’s editing to be done, and perhaps he’ll wander into another story one day. This is his second appearance in one of mine. But there’s nothing quite like the fellowship of a first draft, between author and character, is there? 

That last line got me thinking about the relationship that forms between characters and their creator during the writing process. It holds a lot of the same chemistry, wonder, and thrill of falling in love, as I come to know these story people chapter by chapter.

I’ve even found myself feeling a bond with a few of my antagonists, because I’ve gone inside their heads and realized they have reasons (often wounded, twisted reasons) for the wrenches they throw into the smooth gears of my protagonists lives. That’s one of my gauges for whether or not I’ve given my antagonist enough depth and motivation, if on some level I can feel for him, or her, and understand (if not like) where they are coming from and why they make the choices they do. I admit, I’ve wept over one or two such characters who met their end unrepentant.

When the first draft is done, there’s still plenty of time to spend with the characters in each novel. There’s editing, and lots of it. And while overall I enjoy the editing and polishing stages of novel writing more than writing first draft, there is one aspect of first draft writing that trumps everything else.

It’s those days (and they don’t happen but maybe once or twice a week during a first draft) when I emerge after hours of intense writing, when the characters have surprised me, said and done things I hadn’t expected, revealed layers to their minds and hearts I didn’t know would be there. That is story-writing magic. It’s exhausting and exhilarating, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the later draft polishing in the world.

A side note: speaking of editing, I’ve had my head down all week doing just that, and only today realized I hadn’t blogged this week. How is it December 1 already? The year has flown, but I’ve just about met one of my goals, researching and writing a 120,000 word historical novel in under a year’s time. I started in February. Got any goals that you’re closing in on here at the end of 2011?

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