“Make Me a Character!”

I mean this as kindly as I may, but this is a two-sided demand.  I’ve heard it a few times, and it’s not offensive, but it is a little demanding.

And I’ll say that there are at least two themes within the personality of the folks who have said this to me.  Maybe three.

 

  1. They’re strong personalities. I’ve never, ever had this said by a person who thinks to prioritize seeming meek.
  2. I don’t often see them walking around with a book.  This is not to say they don’t read — in fact I know the opposite to be true with the folks I’m thinking of.  I’ve just never seen them carrying the sweet soft comforts of a book’s cover between their fingertips.  Except my sister. And that’s when she’s going to the beach.
  3. (This one’s a maybe) They believe I’m really going to book it.

I remember the first time this demand was said, I was carrying around something like 300+ loose pages belonging to my manuscript for my first big book DISJUNCTURE. This was a long time ago, and it feels like a galaxy that was far away, but it was really this one, and just a different time.  I met up with an old colleague for a night of dranks, she introduced me as “Eric, he’s very literate” and when she found out I didn’t have my laptop in my bag, but instead a strange amount of homemade pages, there it was.

“I’m a character, right?”

“Uh, no?”

“MAKE ME A CHARACTER!”

“You are a character.”

“I MEAN IN YOUR BOOK!”

That’s a paraphrase for how the conversation went, because alcohol was involved. And like I said, this isn’t bad, and as a person, I still appreciate and respect this gal.

With my latest manuscript…well I think/believe that with many writers there’s an incubation period and an “OMGerd lemme share!” period.  The incubation part is important for self-feedback, before you get the feedback of alpha and beta readers. But then you share, and you might find that everyone has different opinions, and different things that they love/like/don’t really like, which I think is good.  But this can sometimes happen. It’s happened with Bahamut more than 3 times in the last month.

“MAKE ME A CHARACTER!”

You know, the bad part of this double-sided demand is that it’s usually made after a book is past its first draft, because we’re in that beta-reader phase. If your book is tightly plotted and fast-paced…do you know how inconvenient it is to introduce a new character? I think that just maybe this introduces a couple of reasons why the people who make this demand don’t have “Reader” at the forefront of their descriptors? Because they should 1) want to read the book, specifically they have no idea if I’m going to George R R Martin them with a terrible twist or ending. And people might not like that.  But also 2) If you appreciate the pacing of a story, you’ll understand that it’s not only extra work on me, its author, but also extra work on the reader to have to spend extra time looking for some stranger in the pages.

I guess in a way, most of us want to read for ourselves in the pages. And in all sincerity, I think it’s flattering that closely-minded folks, my adoptive kin-oh-the-Earth want to read about themselves directly. I think it means they believe in what I’m doing, that it should lead to fun and more, and hey, that’s flattering.

And of course, like I said, I’m sure most writers take real-world inspiration from imaginary and real-life people. We all make constructs, no? I just think it’s less double-sided, and maybe even more realistic to live as a person who’s in some way inspiring. I guess I can be demanding too, because for me it’s more like, hey, I see you kin-oh-the-earth. Keep making me take notice, and if I deserve to be a writer of many books, you’re bound to get in one, eventually.

I just need to write a bunch of good books, first.

No big deal, right?

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