Thursday, January 31, 2013

Are You Ready for a New BFF? by Sandra Ardoin

I’ve made two major moves in my life—once from Indiana to Texas and once from Texas to North Carolina. Those weren’t just “a hop, skip, and a jump” to another neighborhood. Each move required me to say goodbye to old friends. 

Reaching the end of a novel is a little like making a major move. As writers, we create “friends” we spend time with for as much as a year or more. I don’t know about all writers, but I suspect many are like me. They get attached to their characters—even the not-so-friendly ones. They are people we endow with talents, flaws, quirks, tragic pasts, and a destructive present. We give them happily-ever-after endings or, in some cases, vague futures. We stand alongside them as they face tough challenges. (If they don’t have tough challenges, it isn’t a story worth writing.)

Like our real-life friends, they can reflect some aspect of our own personalities—we have something in common with them. Maybe your heroine has a similar sense of humor to yours, which makes her dialog sparkle with teasing sarcasm or dry wit. Perhaps your hero has suffered a tragedy you can relate to and your empathy causes his emotions to run deeper on the page.

Some of us wipe away tears when writing that last scene because it means saying goodbye to those we’ve come to know as well as we do our real-life BFFs. It can be like staring through the rear window of the car as the people and places we know so well grow smaller and smaller until they disappear. But take heart, dear writer, there will be future visits through edits and the marketing of your book.

Now before you call in Dr. Phil for yourself (or me), let me say there is good news. Just as you made friends in your old town (novel), you’ll make friends in your new town (novel). While writing one book, plans for your move to another will have been popping in your brain like a bag of Orville Redenbacher’s best.

Soon, you’ll meet new characters whose stories draw you to them. In the planning, you’ll question them about their lives, eventually getting to see what makes them the people they are. In the process of writing, they’ll show even more of themselves.

Relationships grow when people allow us see below the surface to the person they really are—their emotions and how they change and grow. It’s the difference between true friendship and a passing acquaintance. If you cannot see below the surface of your fictional characters to sympathize or empathize with them, then neither will the reader. And everyone will miss out on a special relationship.

Have you ever written a character you dreaded saying goodbye to? 
What makes someone else’s fictional character stand out in such a way that you, as a reader, don’t want to their story to end? 


Sandra Ardoin writes historical romance, mostly set in the second half of the nineteenth century. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Carolina Christian Writers, and the author of Get a Clue, a children’s short story in Family Ties: Thirteen Short Stories. Contact Sandra through her website at www.sandraardoin.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads. 

14 comments:

  1. Oh, Sandy, you said it! Goodbyes are always tough and bittersweet, but I remind myself that my next hero and heroine are anxiously awaiting their happily-ever-after. The great thing about stand alones within a series is that you have an opportunity to catch up with your past characters, and as you said, with edits and marketing. Thanks for an awesome post, Sandy. :-)

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  2. Thanks for posting my two cents today, Dora. And I love reading the stories of secondary characters. There's always at least one in a book who intrigues me.

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  3. My problem is that I like my current heroine but I adore my secondary character for my next book. I want to move on but am dealing the the sagging middle. So I must make myself fall in love with her again.

    Thanks for your post! It got me thinking.

    Peace, Julie

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  4. That middle is a bug-a-boo, isn't it, Julie? It's especially bad when ideas for another story hit and you can't wait to get to it. I find that all I can do is keep writing until I'm lost in the world of my present characters again. Have fun!

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  5. So true, Sandra! That's one reason I've enjoyed writing series. While bringing out new characters, I'm also able to keep the familiar favorites around and keep up with what's happening in their lives.

    BTW, since our move to the Carolinas, I'm so glad I've made a new friend in you!

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  6. That's so sweet, Myra. Thank you and ditto!

    A series can be more like moving to the next town over, rather than across the country. You may not see your friends as often, but they're only a ten-minute drive away. :-)

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  7. What a lovely, meaningful post, Sandra. I had a family of eight on a Colorado ranch that I miss already LOL. When the "warning" came that there will be heavy rewrites on the last two stories, well, I welcome visiting 'em all again!

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    1. I'm sure they've put out the welcome mat for you, Tanya! Enjoy the visit! :-)

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  8. Sandra, I'm soon going to be saying farewell to 2 main characters and countless others, who have peopled my six-book series. Because the male protagonist shares so many characteristics with my husband (who has been in Heaven for 12 years), Rob is especially hard to let go. In a way, writing this story has kept my husband close. If I survive the publishing of all six novels (the first should come out later this year and my publisher is considering contracting the other five), I have another six outlined, so I'm hoping to continue Rob and Maggie's story until I join my husband. Thanks for the reminder that others feel close to their characters. Occasionally, I think I'm the only one. Ha!

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    1. First, Dianne, congratulations on your upcoming release!

      Oh my, your situation is especially difficult. I'm so sorry about your husband, but glad you were able keep a connection with him through Rob's character.

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  9. Great post, Sandy!

    I've definitely said goodbye to characters I'll miss. I think what makes me sad to leave a character I read about is when they're someone I really admire, someone who has grown on their journey.

    Looking forward to more posts!

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    1. Thanks, Heidi! And I've been sorry to say goodbye to some of your characters! :-)

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  10. Such a great analogy! I wondered why I had such a hard time starting my next story. It does feel like saying goodbye to a BFF.

    I've got two other stories on my mind. Trying to figure out which town to move to. :D

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    1. Well, throw a dart at the map, pack your bags, and move on, Barbara. You've got new friends to meet. :-)

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