Thursday, March 08, 2007

When Characters become Friends

By DiAnn Mills

A mixture of emotions swept over me last week when my third and final book in the Texas Legacy Series stepped into the marketplace. I’ve grown to love these characters – everything about them. I love their stubborn moments, their victories, their defeats, the way they love, and even the way they hate. They fight for what they believe in, and God is always right. For the past two years, I’ve wakened to the sound of their voices ringing in my head and to their problems. I watched the women slip into their dresses and bonnets, and the men tug on their boots. Actually, the women sometimes wiggled into a pair of boots and pants too. I rode the gentle mares and the wild broncos and held my breath. I lifted my Winchester, tensed my body for the kickback and sent bullets flying into targets, some of which were human. I celebrated with them, and I cried with them. I cheered when they triumphed and wanted to shake them when they made poor decisions.

In short, my characters have become my friends, and it’s hard to let them go. Unfortunately, I experience this grieving period every time I finish a book or series. I feel abandoned and lost, since too often I’m thinking about them just after I say my prayers and before I drift off to sleep. Dare I say that I worry about my characters? Hope they are not quarreling with their spouses or their children? That life hasn’t given them another dose of bitter herbs?

This bizarre and sometimes eccentric habit of mine is not much different from the habits of many of my other writer friends. How else can a writer create a character unless he/she first understands their motivation? And while these characters are on a journey called life, I realize the many reasons why I enjoy them.

I also realize their problems and issues. The storms of life that beat against our doors today have been happening since time began.

I consider Leather and Lace. Casey O’Hare didn’t start out life wanting to be an outlaw. Quite the contrary, she had hopes and dreams like every little girl until life slapped her in the face, and she chose to survive in the only way she knew. Many women today have made poor choices when faced with the dredges of life. We all have. I wrote that book for those women.

Jenny in Lanterns and Lace desperately wanted someone to love her. Is that such a bad thing, since we were created with a deep desire to be loved? The problem is, where do we go for love? Jenny thought unconditional love was a myth until the great Lover showed her differently.

Bonnie abhorred the disease that ravaged her beloved husband and left her a widow in Lightning and Lace. But she is determined, and alcohol is not the answer. Substance abuse is not native to today’s world. Wherever there is pain and suffering, people will look for a way to manage their sorrow.

Oh my, I do hope my darlings will be fine. They will be back next fall in a Christmas Legacy book, and then that is truly the end.

So today, I’m creating new friends. Already I know they won’t behave in every instance, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m on my way to a new adventure. And, by the way, this is a contemporary.