I’ve been working on exercises on crafting characters last week. I finally treated myself to a book I’ve been hankering to get my hands on to. I’d like to say it’s because it was recommended to me, which is the case, but as well as this, its the appropriateness of the title: Take your Characters to Dinner with you by Laurel. A. Yourke.
This title, I believe encapsulates something one feels as an author. I’d like to show you, rather than tell you 😉 Here it goes:
I flick the final tab in the browser shut and close my laptop over. In the blue glow I hadn’t noticed that the day’s light had ebbed away. I’m running late: having spent too long on finishing a chapter. I slip my shoes and coat on, grabbing my handbag in the hallway. The bedroom door stands ajar, the lines of the long corridor softened in the gloom. As I turn, I catch a fleeting shift of movement and do a double take. I lock the door and join the busy street.
Commuters hurry past, as well as others off out for the evening. Even amongst the crowd and passing traffic, I’m able to detect a set of footsteps that marry mine. They keep pace with me as I run up the stairs to the platform and onto the train. And yes, this is London, so a handful of other people follow onto the train behind me, but not my companion. My stalker is already here. The skin of my forearm prickles as if its been brushed. I can almost feel hot breath upon my cheek. My gaze examines the empty space beside me as the train pulls out from the station…
O.K. No, I do not flatshare with a poltergeist, who when sociably disposed accompanies me out for dinner and drinks. Yet, I am hardly ever alone, even when I’m by myself. Uh, huh – I’d like you to meet Xavier, or perhaps it’ll be El you see me with another day. Sometimes our roles are reversed and it is me that feels like a ghost, my step so faint in the world. That is the way we authors like to live, in our characters’ heads, attempting to view the world through their eyes, through their experiences; their foibles and fancies.
And there’s that comical moment when you see someone who reminds you of one of them. Maybe its the way they walk, a gesture, a look, which causes you to gawp like you’ve seen a celebrity. Perhaps you’re more restrained, but your eyes still can’t resist stealing glances of them. You trace their form and face as though you’ve just seen someone you used to know; someone you haven’t seen in ages and you want to know everything about.
Stop…I hear you say! They’re not real! But that’s the novelist’s job – to make them real and maybe, just maybe, if we obsess enough over them, we’ll make it so that you see them too 😉