Do I Secretly Hate My Characters?

Last night as I was attempting to sleep, I thought I’d sign off on consciousness for the day by spending some time with my new characters on a potential novel called SOULMANCER. I figured I’d follow them about their day, maybe imagine up some interaction, etc.

Then, out of the blue (or black, since it was night), I found myself telling them that they shouldn’t expect me to get too cozy with them, since I would never love them as much as I would the characters of NAMELESS.

What, what, what?!

Sitting bolt upright in bed (not really), I realized I had just vocalized an issue that has been bothering me for the past few months as I seriously considered moving on from NAMELESS and working on new projects. Perhaps the reason I’d had so many stories suffer from Sudden Novel Death Syndrome in the last year wasn’t due to insufficient pre-plotting, but instead a self-sabotaging, unconscious profession of love for NAMELESS.

September 2010 marked the 7-year anniversary of the day I first started working on NAMELESS. That’s SEVEN years with these characters, getting to know them in all their various emotional states. Let’s face it: these are my imaginary friends. I know everything about them. Give me a situation and I’ll tell you their reactions, instantly. I enjoy them, love them, and never want to let them go.

Turning NAMELESS into a single book from a trilogy means I will get less time with them than I thought. Yes, I still have a few years ahead of me where I will interact with them in edits, then in promotions, and then in releases, but they only get one golden age. My time with them is limited, and that makes me sad.

So when I have new characters cropping up and beginning to sidle closer for the chance to get their story told, I guess I got a little defensive. I didn’t WANT to fall in love with other characters. Spending time with them felt like cheating on NAMELESS.

Has anyone ever felt like this? I want to give my stories the love and dedication they deserve, but I don’t know if writing a book in 3 months gives me enough time to really get to know and love the characters. I want to write books that connect with people, which means they must connect with me as well. Otherwise the characters end up shallow.

But you don’t get years and years in publishing. I want to have a career. A book out every year. Will that mean sacrificing the close relationships I want to have with my characters?

8 thoughts on “Do I Secretly Hate My Characters?

  1. irisflower81 says:

    I’ve felt this way before, totally. I’m writing a trilogy with characters that have been kicking around in my head for ages. I love them all to death, and though I definitely go through days where I’m burned out from writing or editing or whatever else, I will be incredibly depressed when I am done with all three books. (This done could mean anything from publication to just done writing them and polishing them for myself.)

    It’s always really hard for me to move on from stories, especially since the only ones I’ve written have been interrelated. I share your goals for publication–wanting to have a career doing it–but the thought of having to get to a point where I’m saying good bye to characters I’ve known for ages really scares the hell out of me.

    Anyway, long comment is long. Just wanted to let you know you’re not the only person who worries about this.

    • savannahjfoley says:

      I’m really glad that you shared that you feel the same way :-) Wasn’t sure if I was just being weird or not. That sounds a lot like my situation actually… trilogy, interconnected characters… I find them popping up in other stories under different names.

  2. coronanl says:

    I guess it’s kinda like being in a relationship with your characters and afterwards you may be going “I’ll never love any characters like this again”. If I do a very elaborate illustration that takes me months to complete, then I bond with my illustration and I find it extra difficult to accept criticism or start something fresh. Now, my stuff doesn’t have a complete story, it’s mostly just a scene. So I can only imagine with all the joy and heartache and journeys your characters *and* you go through… it must be 10 times harder letting them go!

    But maybe that with time it’ll get easier. Connecting with characters on such a level sounds like a good thing for the book though ^^;

    • savannahjfoley says:

      Yes, it’s just like being in love, lol! I have a very monogamous relationship I guess.

      You’re right that it’s good for the book, but that also means it’s bad for the next books.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Really great point–I imagine it’s kind of like being a teacher and having a new class of students every year–you dedicate a whole year to them, every day, and then they move on. Only here you’re not only nurturing your characters, you’re creating them! I do think you can continue to write characters with whom you and readers connect–perhaps you won’t be as comfortable with them as you are with characters you’ve been around for 7 years, but it’s hard to write 100K words and not get attached :) Good Luck!

    • savannahjfoley says:

      That’s an excellent comparison, and I never thought about that with the teacher analogy. You’re right about the 100k, too, eventually you’ll get bonded to them and it’ll be totally different from the other book.

  4. lalaith7 says:

    I’m thinking of one quite successful author right now who certainly recycles characters/character traits under different names in her books, but at least some of her readers love this because they’re so attached to them too.

    On a non-writing note, I can’t speak to imaginary friends and such b/c I can’t even remember if I ever had any, but I think it’s got to be a little like real friendships. Where your life takes you shapes your friendships, and although I will always love my best friends, right now one for them sees me every day, one of them lets me call late at night when I’m upset, two are back home and only see me on breaks from school, and one I haven’t seen in more than a year. The significance my friends currently have in my life changes, but that doesn’t diminish the effect they’ve had on m life and the role they’ve played in forming me as a person. At the time and place in my life that I needed them, they were there, and now that I need someone else, we’ve both moved on in our lives.

    Does that make sense?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just an annon here, but I’ve loved your Nameless series for about…a year/a year and a half. I’ve been writing for about five years now, between things I love and hate and I get rather attached to my characters too…

    Recently I’ve read Catcher in the Rye for school, and the author (Salinger) also dealt with this issue. Do we writers write for ourselves or do we write for the public? In his case, he became a hermit but I don’t think that’s exactly the right way to deal with it.

    I think it’s possible to fit it in. I think you just have to remember that your originals will always be there too, like age-old friends. Maybe it’s not a full answer, but just my two cents.

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