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 Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads.