Being an author is like being the god of the figments of your imagination.
Okay, I realize that sounds like I’m crazy. But you know what? You have to be a little crazy to be an author. Just trust me on this. And trust me when I say I’m the god of their world. Watch this:
I created Ever Trollkiller three years ago. She was a dwarf who had a secret – one that she didn’t even know about. Her life was very sheltered, leading her to be a very naïve and somewhat dumb twenty-three year old dwarf. But through her journey, she becomes a strong leader and an independent dwarf that will save the world.
Or, at least, that’s who she was three years ago when I created her. Now? She’s still pretty dumb, refuses to grow up, and, though she criticizes her companion for whining, has become quite a whiner herself.
I created Tekla Palavandish a few days after I created Ever. Tekla is Ever’s whining friend, a mortal human, and just sixteen years old. She accompanies Ever on her journey, valiantly risking her life to save her family, but never truly seems to be able to shed her lady’s mind and trade it for a warrior’s mind. She has much knowledge of the world, but little training with the sword, and it becomes Ever’s mission to return her safely to the family that helped her so nicely.
Again, that’s who she was when I created her three years ago. And she was eventually going to die, because I just didn’t like her. (See? a god. I choose their life and death.) But now? She had become vital in many ways. She faces the Evil Sorcerer and escapes him, she turns into an animal of sorts, and she becomes a lethal weapon herself, despite the small amounts of training she had on her farmlands with her brother.
Now, I once read a quote by Robert Frost that has stuck with me as an author in a brutal way. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” I used to think the surprise meant some sort of plot twist that you planned very well in a manor that shocked the reader. I have since learned that the characters are responsible for this surprise, and it truly is surprising in the author as well. You see, I never intended or expected Tekla to turn into what she has (read From the Mouth of Tekla to learn more), but when the inkling came to me, I simply knew that was who she was. Once I started writing those scenes, it surely shocked me just how brutal she was. Which brings me to the tears – I am an avid reader, and believe me, when I get attached to a fictional character, I absolutely will cry at their deaths. This is precisely the reaction that Frost is prompting the authors to pull from their readers, but how can they do such a thing without building up the emotional connection between the reader and the character? And, by extension, the character and the author? If it hurts you to kill a character, it will hurt your readers to see her die.
I have to be honest – it wouldn’t hurt me to see Ever die. That most likely means she’s safe. But Tekla? Well, she’s quickly become a favorite of mine. Which puts her very life in danger.
I’m not saying she will die – I have other favorites still. I’m only saying, her safety is hanging by a thread – a thread that I decide if, when, and how it will snap.