Monday, October 31, 2011

A Writer and her Characters

As far back as I can remember, I have had an ongoing relationship with a few of my characters. Ones derived from my imagination, from the time I was a young adult, possibly before then. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plenty of friends or suffered from a social anxiety disorder, I just had a very active imagination and I needed more to fulfill my idle time, I guess. I can remember playing with my Barbies, and I’m not talking just a few at a time. I’m talking a whole room full of them and all their accessories, including the cars, the horses, the pets, all of it. And my goodness, I created a whole world with them. I was busy for weeks on the same storyline and I think I started that when I was five or six. I had a huge collection that I saved and passed on to my own daughter, and she to hers, not that I ever witnessed her getting into their lives the way I did. Anyway, as time went on, and I got too old to sport the Barbies, the stories in my head continued to grow and my characters were anything but Barbies. These characters became entities in their own right. They all look different, they act different, and they talk different. Yet, they are all a part of me. Making me a very diverse individual with an amazing imagination. A very visual one at that. How awesome is it to allow one’s mind to just float and see these characters living and talking and doing life. If it hasn’t happened to you, all I can say is that it’s amazing. It’s almost as if you take a trip to another time, place, or, maybe, are watching a movie.
Now, sure, a writer will introduce dozens of characters to their readers, and each of them, all hold a special place in their creators’ hearts. They are all loved or disliked according to their actions by the creator. However, the one thing that simply flabbergasts me is how a certain few characters are born and how they attach themselves to their creator and not for just a little while. These characters become a part of the writer and remain with them for a lifetime. What intrigues me is this: a writer brings their character to the table and a story is born. The writer gives that character or characters the free rein to tell their tale, the writer being more or less the reporter of the events they see taking place within their minds. The characters take over and the story is being jotted down, word after word, page after page, and chapter after chapter, and the writer is doing all they can to keep up with what they see. And hoping they are doing the characters justice. Before they know it, they have a full novel sitting there on the screen before them, or in notebooks scattered about the room and labeled one, two, three…etc. No time for a title on each, though, all there’s time for is getting those scenes you’re seeing in your head out of it, giving your characters life. I know it to be true because I’ve done it. I have well used notebooks in boxes and under my bed. I have documents saved all over the place. And in all of them, are my creations. My characters just waiting for me and my attention. Waiting for their turn for their story to be told. Now, as I conquer a story, the characters in them become quiet as their story has been told; however, there are some who never quiet. There are some who become so real and so vibrant that I swear I am more than just one person. My characters are alive within me, and they have worth. They are a part of me. Now, please don’t take me wrong, I’m not suffering from a multiple personality disorder, or maybe I am, but I am able to distinguish real life from the fantasy life that I get lost in on a day to day basis along with my characters.

And this leads me to an interesting topic that came up between me and my other half. He said, “I swear there are some days I have married Sybil’s sister.” I looked at him, with what was probably a blank expression, and asked what he meant. Calmly he said, “Well, there are some days when I come in from work and you’re happy and smiling and joking around, and there are other days when I come in and you’re upset and angry and in a very serious mood.” I nodded at him and looked away and grinned. He stood there for a bit, and sauntered off, figuring he’d get no response. Now, I could have taken that with a shake of salt and continued on with what I was doing. I could have dismissed it as being a “woman.” But I didn’t. Because each time he noticed a change in my personality, it was when I was working with a certain group of characters. I had to sit down and I had to think. Was I suffering from a disorder or were my characters that strong. I attributed it to both. Really. And this is why. I am obsessed with my characters, with a handful of them anyway. I mean, they all mean something to me, but it’s just with this certain group that I feel as if I’m a fierce lioness protecting her cubs from danger. That’s not to say they don’t find danger on their own, in their own world, but I’m here in this one protecting them and guiding them as best as I can to help them tell their story for the first time. These certain characters have helped me through some difficult times in my life. They are a source of comfort to me. I refer to them when I need them. And yes, at the risk of maybe sounding a little crazy, I will sometimes say: What would… And I sat some more and thought harder. And I wondered then, when he came in and pulled me out of the story as he so often does, much to my disapproval, what character I was writing for. When I write for them, I feel them and all their emotions to go along with them.

So, I went in search of him days later and I said, “When you got home today was I happy or angry?” He looked at me, his big blue eyes wide, and he said I was angry. I thought a bit and read over what I was writing and it hit me. I was writing for one of my Behind Blue Eyes characters. Torro. He was in the midst of an intense scene with his brother, with my all-time favorite character. TJ. (I’ll be doing a blog on TJ very soon.) So, getting back to where I was going, I get so vested in the characters’ lives that I actually take on what they’re feeling and sometimes, if I’m pulled out of the scene, that certain emotion, feeling, or ? comes with me. He disturbed me as I was focused in on Torro’s (many of you met him in Tony & Ryan and briefly in Caged and will soon see a bit more of him in Carl/Lucca’s story)  POV, he dragged me out of that scene and the anger followed. Torro is an aggressive, torn soul in Behind Blue Eyes and that is who I was at that particular time. To date, he has met my comedian and TJ’s main supporter, best friend, and future lover, Benny. He’s met Torro on several occasions. He’s met TJ countless times, and he says he sees the difference in me with every different character I write for. I think he prefers Benny.

Interesting. I shrugged my shoulders and warned him as I smiled very sweetly at him. “Better watch how you act with me, you never know who you’ll come home to.” He looked at me, a bit of fear laced in his eyes, and he walked away mumbling something about Sybil.

So, I guess my question is, now, to the other writers out there. Do your characters manifest themselves in your lives? Has anyone in your life noticed and what do they say about it? And BTW: I am able to turn them off when I watch TV. So I don’t. Haha!

~Michele L. Montgomery



  1. Wow! That was an awesome post. I've suffered from the same sort of possession you speak of, as you know. And think about it. It makes perfect sense to have their residual thoughts/feelings burning inside us long after we've stopped writing. In a way, isn't getting into a characters head, their heart, just a different form of channeling?

    I'm not sure if my partner's picked up on it or not. If he did, he's never said anything to me. I figure he probably attributed it to the fact that I can sometimes be a moody S.O.B. Other times I'm just pensive. Sorry I can't answer the last bit, but I can tell you you're not alone.

    I prefer not to exorcise myself of the temporary possession because then it's harder to jump back into the story. Unless, of course, it's something really horribly depressing, negative or will cause problems between me and my honey.

  2. Thanks, Johnny!
    I do know indeed. I just tell my other lovely half he's way too involved (worried) about me. haha!! I do know that when I am in the middle of writing a scene, I hate to be pulled out of it and when I am, and someone is trying to talk to me I get a tiny bit annoyed and I think they see this. Must be the snarls and stuff. HAHA!!

  3. When I first started writing, my husband (I found this out only recently) actually considered staging an intervention. He was THAT frightened by the behavior brought on by it all. I know that it would probably do good things for my stress level and mental health to find away to close out my writing time and put my characters away, and I have heard of writers who can, but I haven't been able to. I find, in fact, that they come to me at the most inopportune moments. A love scene "downloading" while I'm in line at the grocery store, for example. ;)

  4. Ellis,
    You are a writer after my own heart. I know what you mean. There are times one of my characters finds something qwirky and has his/her say about it. I just laugh.