Being in love with a fictional character is probably not a good thing. But I'm not really in a position to judge.

Friday, November 19, 2010

When I was eleven and twelve I had a super-massive, heart-rending crush on a kid in my class. For two whole years. I consulted my Magic 8 Ball (which I think I got from Maccas at some point). I did those love calculation things on paper, so-and-so loves so-and-so. I can't even remember how they worked. But it was meant to be! For realsies!

There was, at a school camp, a highly orchestrated plan to ask him out. ('Going out' at my primary school meant telling everyone you were going out and not talking to the other person out of embarrassment. I think a couple of kids were a little more advanced and did the whole 'kissing behind the bike shed' thing. Not that there was a bike shed, to my knowledge. It's a metaphorical bike shed, okay?) I'm not going to go into details of this plan, partially because I don't remember particularly well, and also because it's not that funny. But the plan didn't work out, otherwise I'd be disappeared into the sunset by now.

I can't remember the exact moment when my preteen infatuation stopped. There was no dramatic realisation, or turning point, or anything like that. So it must have been gradual. But you know what it's like - going from thinking someone is perfect (gorgeous and nice and smart oh my!) to thinking, why on earth did I ever like them? Was I crazy?

This is how I feel about my characters. This is how you might feel about yours.

Now, you know, my characters: I probably wouldn't be friends with them. Not that they're not nice or anything, because they are, but they're just a tad extreme for me. But they are the sort of people who I'd have massive, heart-rending, admire-from-afar crushes (unrequited love is the best kind, fyi). Especially True, because she's kind of fierce. And Little Al and the rest are all right.

While you're writing, they're beautiful and perfect. You like them so much, you don't want anything bad to happen to them. You want them to be safe and happy and to find the love of their life and be reunited with their family.

Here's the thing: A book where everything goes right is not an exciting one. There's no opportunity for the character to grow, or learn. Sure, they can get what they want in the end, maybe. But between introducing the character and the last page, your job as a writer is not to care for your characters, and love them, and let all their dreams come true. You have to inflict pain on them. You have to figure out what they are most afraid of, and confront them with it. You have to hurt your characters. It's for their own good. Or the good of your story.

(You may also grow to resent your character, when you finish the novel and step away and your massive crush disappears. Why is their life so wonderful? you'll ask yourself. They wouldn't exist without me! This is crazy territory. Avoid it.)

And maybe you're not infatuated with your characters when you're writing, and maybe you don't have the whole they're not what I imagined them to be at all! revelation. But regardless of whether you're crazy like Steph Bowe, if you write stuff, remember that smooth sailing for your character usually means a boring book. Make someone spontaneously combust. Give them lactose intolerance. Make crazy stuff occur. (It's a book! There's no budget! You can do whatever you like!)

But seriously, if you start consulting a Magic 8 ball over your infatuation with a fictional character (or even a real person), I think you might have crossed the line.

(Also, True and I, 27% compatibility, according to my love calculations. Even though I'm like totally over her. Coincidentally, the same percentage as my primary school crush. Yes, I know, crossing the line. What was my point again?)

Question: Do you have crushes on fictional characters? (Your own or of other people's creation.) TELL ME.
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