Friday, March 18, 2016

Storyteller's Journey

Friends with Fictional Characters?

Is it possible to have a friendship with a fictional character? I believe most writers would reply "yes!" But if so, why...and how? Since I've been working on my middle grade story of Livvi Biddle for nearly five years, I know for me, my eleven-year-old protagonist is definitely my friend.
"Livvi Biddle" Digital Art: Victoria Lindstrom

Why did that happen? And maybe more importantly, how? The answers to those psychological questions are not too difficult to determine, at least not for me.

While I have three sons: David, Kevin, and Brian, the three of them each know that if they'd been born a female they would have been named Olivia - Livvi, for short. So you might surmise that maybe I'm just treating my protagonist like the daughter I never had. I believe that's part of why I feel close to her, but there's more...

I've discovered that when I create a character there's a bit of me that goes into her/his personality, especially the protagonist. Maybe it's familiarity, but I believe it's also a latent desire to connect with someone that understands me, and whom I understand. Maybe that's how the seed of friendship takes root. I subconsciously create a character I'd like to have as a friend. A sort of literary BFF.

When you've been a bookworm as long as I have, at some point along the way you become honest with yourself and admit that safety is a big reason why you're friends with fictional characters: They're always there; they never change; they're usually inspirational; and they never betray you. (Not to worry, I have lots of human friends, too!)

On a side note: You might wonder about the fact that I've been working on this story for so long. That was also a concern of mine. So, when I enlisted the editorial services of Chris Eboch last December, I specifically asked her to be honest with me and tell me if it was time to put my pal Livvi Biddle to bed. Thankfully, she said I should continue.

While I have major work to do with my plot, Chris also made these comments: "Setting - not much to say here. You generally describe places well..." and "Characters - This is also a strong area." The one that meant the most: "As I said, you are a strong writer overall..."

That was all great news, since I hope to see Livvi Biddle come to life at some point. For now, I'm busy strengthening the plot in my story.

When I reflect on my proclivity for befriending my protagonists, I'm reminded that one reason I began to seriously write was the hope that children might connect with my stories and my characters. (Like I did with so many books as a child.) Offering a young reader a novel, a magic lantern, during a challenging time in her childhood, can illuminate her uncertain path and even give her hope for the future. Maybe the reader will find that my fictional friend is her friend, too.

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