Characters are a lot like teenagers.
They both keep me up late at night. With one teenager in her first year of junior college, the other in his first year of high school, I stay up later than I’d like more nights than I care to admit. I do not sleep until they are home. At least some of those nights, my characters keep me occupied. The down side is by the time the kids get home, my characters are just getting started on their adventures and I don’t want to go to bed!
They both require a referee at times. Every parent (and author) should have his/her stripes! And a whistle. My teenagers get along well, for the most part. But my son sometimes exhibits signs of raging hormones, and then the fights increase. Of course, neither of my teenagers is EVER wrong (they get that from their father). I can only take so much before I blow my top (er, whistle). My refereeing experience comes in handy with my characters, too. The things my characters argue about aren’t necessarily as stupid as what my teenagers argue about, but their arguments are more intense. Sometimes they definitely need to be separated!
They both talk back. My husband and I are strong believers in keeping the lines of communication open – especially between ourselves and with our children. My teenagers know they can talk to us about anything, although they may not like our reactions. They employ the Divide and Conquer strategy – cornering whichever one of us they think will say yes to whatever it is they want. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When their strategy fails, they tend to lose control and start talking back, raising their voices and saying things they shouldn’t. My characters usually skip right to the losing control, talking back part. And that’s because of the next point.
They both tend to have minds of their own. I’ve taught my kids from an early age to be independent, to think for themselves and not follow the crowd just because everybody else is doing it. And yes, it’s coming back to haunt me. They have yet to figure out there is a fine line between being independent and being disrespectful when speaking their minds. My characters tend to follow the same pattern, which leads to talking back.
They both make me cry. Luckily, my kids don’t make me cry very often, but when they do, it’s usually a gullywasher. I’ve been known to go for a walk and not come back for long enough the youngest gets worried and wants to come looking for me. That just makes me want to cry more. My characters, on the other hand, probably don’t make me cry enough, but I’m working on that. I want them to touch readers’ hearts like they have touched mine.
I wouldn’t trade my teenagers – or my characters – for anything. They may drive me crazy, but I’m proud of each one of them. I’m proud of the people they have become, proud of all that they’ve learned from me, but most of all, I’m proud of the life lessons they’ve taught me.
I hope they never forget that I brought them into this world...
I can also take them out.
Note: Originally printed in the April 2011 issue of Romancing the Prairie, newsletter for Prairie Hearts RWA #43.
Do your characters act like teenagers? What characteristics do they exhibit?