In my interactions with my audience, which is primarily made up of children, I get asked any number of questions. These are usually about how I write, where I live and who draws the pictures for my stories. But occasionally, there are questions that are so unexpected that they have me in splits! Presenting a series of Questions Readers Ask.
Which character do you love or hate from your own books?
When a child asked me this, I was gobsmacked because this was a question that no adult has ever asked me. So I thought honestly about the question before I replied. And it set me thinking – can a writer really like or hate their characters? After all, every character is born out of a writer’s imagination. In that sense, every character is a child of the brain. Is it possible to hate or love any one of them?
Every character that a writer creates goes far deeper than the portrayal on the page. When I create a character, I like to know him. Of course, I would like to know everything, but since that’s not always possible, I settle for learning as much as possible. If the character is finicky about food (which is something many children in books are!) then I want to know what he thinks of the food and why he feels this way. I definitely like to know what he considers good food and what makes him swallow the food he dislikes. Perhaps he eats it because his mother has told him to, perhaps it’s because it’s never occurred to him that he could refuse to eat it. Right away, I know something about my character. I know that he’s a child who follows the straight and the narrow, and rarely questions people. This helps me plot how he behaves in my story. Will he continue this way? Will this easy acceptance of his be his redeeming quality or will it lead to his downfall? If he’s going to change in the course of the book, will his attitude to food change too? It’s a little bit like getting to know a new friend. You see much you like and admire, you spot a few things that make you feel sorry for him and identify a small number of things you dislike. And before you know it, you are friends with your character! From there it’s only a step to deciding if you like or dislike him!
Sometimes characters do things that writers would themselves never dare to. A character in a series I have authored is constantly body shamed. But her reaction is completely unlike my own reaction to being teased and bullied. She takes it in her stride, making jokes and being so cool about everything that eventually her tormentors are won over. I find her behaviour courageous and am faintly envious of the ease with which she deals with criticism. If only, I find myself thinking, I could be like her!
Other characters, through their own journey within the book, have opened my eyes to the world around me. They have directed my gaze towards relationships that have always been taken for granted and suggested ways of dealing with these. For a fictional character who only lives in your mind to do all this is pretty amazing. It’s difficult not to love these characters.
So yes, I do love some characters from my books! After all, they have taught me a lot. And given me a story while they did this!