I’m sitting on my bed, with a headache building over my left eye, two fingers aching from some Subway related accidents, and a throat that only lets some of my words escape its grasp, trying to postpone having to think about my real life problems for a little while longer. And I’m a little stuck in a rut. When I get this way, I just switch off. It’s a bad habit, I know. Considering I do live with someone else, but it’s how I’ve dealt with my problems for years: wait until I can wrap my mind around the problem without those annoying emotions getting in the way. So I’m doing what I always do: fixating on something else. But you know what? I can call it constructive if I spin it the right way. So here goes:
Have you ever fallen in love with a character? I’m not talking about just loving the character because you love the story, but true, meaningful love. The kind that keeps you up at night and when you read/see/hear their voice you get a huge smile on your face and a touch of butterflies. I have. A few times.
My first was sparkly, chauvinistic Edward Cullen. But cut a girl a break, I was about 15. Does anyone really know any better at 15? He was beautiful and lovely and artistic. Not to mention rich and immortal. What more could you ask for? But I got over him pretty quickly once I re-read his story and saw him for what he truly was. Which was all glamour and no real substance.
My second love was a man by the name of Jamie Fraser, a Scotsman from 17th century Jacobean , well, Scotland. He was a real person with flaws with a tough, battle-ready side, and a softer, more romantic side. I loved reading about him and his wife Claire in the Outlander series. Jamie could do no wrong in my eyes. And even though he was a perfect gentlemen, and never disappointed me like Edward did, I found an even more passionate love about four years later.
His name was William Herondale. A young, tortured soul with the looks of an angel and the wit of Charles Dickens. The most amazing thing about William was his complexity. He believed he was cursed, so that everyone who loved him would die. The first victim was his elder sister. So everyone around him, whom he desperately loved and needed, he would scorn and treat as horribly as he could while all he wanted was to be able to treat them as they deserved to be treated. Especially his lady love, Theresa Grey. While decent people are all well and good like Williams’s parabatai, or battle brother, Jem Carstairs, there’s something even more inviting about a decent person who has to act as awfully as he can. When WIlliam’s curse is finally revealed in Clockwork Prince and it seems as though he has lost Theresa – or Tessa, as she prefers – to Jem because William had to insult her in order to protect her, I was kept up all night. How was anything going to be OK for William ever again? He couldn’t ask Jem to give Tessa up, and even is he did, how could he be with a woman whom his brother had loved? I kept trying to imagine scenarios, but nothing came to mind. Eventually I fell into a fitful doze. Thank God for Clockwork Princess: I could breathe again.
And even though Master Herondale remains my one true love, I am on the verge of taking a lover. From television. I know, it’s a travesty. But I believe him to be every bit the good person that Will Herondale is. I am talking, of course, about Daniel Meade. I love him. A superficial, spoiled, superfluously wealthy playboy who begins to turn things around in the very first episode of Ugly Betty. And from there we see Daniel’s amazing character growth into a selfless, self-sufficient, businessman who finally realises he has fallen in love with his homely assistant (of course, she has had a makeover by this time; no braces, shaped eyebrows, and a definite improvement in her wardrobe. But hey, nobody’s perfect) and Daniel leaves his comfortable world of nepotism and readily available revenue to follow his heart. And isn’t that what every woman truly wants in the end? A man to love her for herself and to travel halfway across the country, leaving behind an incredible fortune, in order to be with her? Well, maybe he could bring a little bit of his fortune with him.
I love characters. They are the best thing about any work. As a Creative and Professional Writing student, I’ve read Literary fiction – emphasis on the capital “L”, and you know what? I don’t give a damn about those characters. The authors are always trying so hard to make their work complicated and metaphorical that they forget the human element: the people in their story. I read Amsterdam by Ian McKewan not so long ago and I hated it.
The two main characters had been friends for years and then, because of some stupid misunderstanding they end up killing each other by abusing their mutual euthanasia pact. How is that in anyway believable? I mean, I know there are some twisted people in this world, but these men were average human beings. Surely they would have felt some remorse for their plans and back out of them? Or if they really were psychopaths, wouldn’t the author give the reader some kind of clue? Not a huge one to give the story away, but something; a little nervous tick, or a slight rage problem. Anything to signpost to the reader “hey, these guys are not going to live happily ever after”. It felt more like Mr McKewan was trying to create something intellectual rather than something that mimics life. Because didn’t someone famous say that once? Art mimics life? Or was it the other way around? Anyway, that is why I have no time for literary authors.
Putting all of this aside, I believe that being able to make a reader care about your characters is the mark of a genius writer. I would take Cassandra Clare, creator of my beloved William, over one of those Literary authors any day. Those authors are far too busy being clever to remember to include emotion among the lyricism. Not many authors can reduce me to tears. Only three have been able to do that: Markus Zusak with “The Book Thief”, JK Rowling with “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”, and Ms Cassandra Clare in “Clockwork Princess”. And I have read a lot of books.
These are the authors I want to emulate, one day. I don’t care if I ever win the big Literary awards (you know, if I ever get published). But if I could get just one letter from a reader who tells me that they care deeply for my characters, then I would feel as though I had done my job. Because what is a book without characters to love?