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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Where Do Characters Come From?

One of my good friends, J.T. Kalnay (also one of my favorite authors - check him out on Amazon!) and I were discussing how characters take over writers' heads. I know this must sound like a crazy concept to non-writers, but our characters aren't simply robotic products of our imaginations. They are their very own people, with minds of their own, who will resist their creator's attempts to force them to act in ways that are counter to their own views of themselves.

In my e-book, Magic Creek, one of the characters is married to an extremely abusive husband. I wanted the book to have a happy ending. One of the themes was meant to be how Tory found the courage to escape from her violent life. But...she didn't want to escape and no matter how I tried to make her, she simply dug in her heels and refused to go.

I tried to market my manuscript in the traditional way and found a publisher who told me how excited he would be to take it on....once the ending was changed, of course. It simply wasn't possible to approve of a victim of domestic battery who makes the choice to stay with her abuser.

Any first-time novelist is aware of how exceedingly difficult it is to find a publisher. They know how it hurts to receive rejection letter after rejection letter. They understand how difficult it is to get your spirits back up to try again...and again...and again. And here, I had my chance. Oh, I wanted to sell my book in the worst way! Honestly, I would have compromised any principle I had to see my name on the cover of a hardback novel!

I would....but Tory wouldn't. I made numerous attempts to re-write the ending to Magic Creek to satisfy the publisher. I argued and pleaded with my character. She was unyielding and I finally capitulated. "Sorry," I told my would-be publisher, regretfully,  "I can't do it your way."

I e-published the book so it could end the way Tory insisted that it end.

Even writers themselves wonder over the strange dynamic of characters who become real individuals, seemingly completely separate from you.  It reminds me of the old Buffalo Springfield lyric, "something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear." All I know is, it is what it is, even if the how and why ain't exactly clear.

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