Guilt is a strange thing. I’m not sure if other writers feel guilt about what happens to their characters, but for me it is something that weighs on my heart and my mind (I guess Stephen King isn’t feeling much guilt as he tortures and kills characters on a regular basis).
In September, I finished a YA realistic fantasy novel and let's just say that the novel ended in a bit of a cliff hanger. Now, a cliffhanger is a great way to hook readers and make them want more, but what about the characters? I mean, I have left those characters (characters that I love and cherish) wrestling with issues beyond what most of us deal with in our non-fictitious lives. They are only teenagers, trying to hold the whole world together the least I could do would be to give them a hand.
It isn’t that I haven’t thought of them in the past few months, but what good does thinking about them do? They are still stuck there, dangling in their uncertainty and I haven’t written a word to help them out.
I know you might be thinking that they are just characters and that they aren’t suffering and maybe you’re right. Maybe they sit there in a kind of suspended animation where they aren’t at all aware of the passing of time and then suddenly spring back into life when my fingers start to dance across the keyboard.
But, maybe not.
If you’re thinking that characters don’t have lives at all, then you haven’t been reading the right books. I mean, I get that they don’t have lives in the same way as you and I, but haven’t you ever fallen in love with a character? Cried when their life was shattered? Cringed in their awkward moments?
Then again, I guess it isn’t really the writer that gives the characters their lives. It is the reader. As the writer, I build the potential for connection. I sow seeds of life altering, earth shattering adventure, but, it really takes the reader to birth the story into existence.
Great, so now I should be feeling guilty that I haven’t even tried to get this book published. I haven’t penned a single draft of a query letter. I’ve left my characters and their epic adventure sleeping in my computer (or in the land of google docs somewhere in cyberspace) without calling upon readers to come and bring their adventures to life.
Not because I don’t think their story is worth sharing. I do. I really would like you all to have the chance to meet Skye and Pin Jun, (not to mention Mr. Burns. Mr. Burns is particularly hard not to love), really it is more that I haven’t felt like I could do them justice.
The publishing world is a hard, gruelling land that takes time, patience and resilience to penetrate. Since the start of the school year, every once of energy has been accounted for and between work and my family, I would say that mostly I am working at a deficit.
And yet book 2 has begun.
This is probably not the right order to be doing things. What’s the point in writing book 2, when book 1 is not in the world? Readers are not likely to hack into my google docs account to try and secretly bring Pin Jun and Skye’s story to fruition.
And yet, book 2 is still starting to unfold.
Maybe the point is just that I am a writer and so I write. Or, maybe the three readers that I know will read my book are enough to make the story worthwhile.
Or maybe I just want to read the story and the only way for me to do that is to write it.
There will be time and space for query letters and rejections later. Right now there is a story that needs to be told. My characters are calling, pleading. It is time for me to answer.