Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Book World vs. Real World

Have you ever said something or done something and then immediately regretted it later? Have you ever turned down the opportunity to do something and then found yourself wondering why you did it? Have you ever unintentionally hurt someone with something you’ve said or done and wished you could turn back time to undo it? 
That’s what I love about writing. No matter what mistakes you make, you can’t regret anything because you have the chance to change it. If you make a character say something that’s completely wrong for them, or do something completely against their usual character, then you can change that. If you write something and immediately regret it, there’s a delete button.
There is no delete button in the real world. There’s no undo, no copy and paste, no cut or rewriting. No editing, no changing a thing. It’s just done…unchangeable. All you can do is try to apologise, try to make it up to people or put it in the past and forget that it ever happened. When bad things happen in books, they usually always had a good ending and you can count on feeling good by the end of the book. That’s not how life works.
That’s why I love to lose myself in a book. Things happen in books that would never happen in real life. Or real things happen in books but they always turn out for the best or teach you a lesson. It’s easier to read about a fictional character experiencing something, crying with them, feeling with them, smiling with them, than it is to experience it yourself. That’s why books make such a great escape.
However, they’re not much of an escape for the writer. Because the writer has to know and feel and live each word and line and emotion that they write, or else it wouldn’t impact the reader at all. The writer often has to go through emotional agony, surviving an emotional rollercoaster in order to bring you a novel that inspires you or makes you feel for the characters within.
As a writer, I love this. I love never knowing what my characters are going to do next. And if there’s something I’ve never done before, or somewhere I’ve always wanted to go then, no problem, my characters can go there or do it for me. I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt and see the pyramids but my health pretty much makes it impossible…so my characters go instead. I’ve always wanted to do those crazy extreme sports, like skydiving and such, but that’s just as impossible for me, so my characters do it instead. In the process, I get to pretend I’m really there too.
Your characters can go through anything and come out unscathed because they’re not real – you created them, you can make them go through anything. If you regret it later, or you think it doesn’t fit in with the story, you can always go back and change it. Instead of them breaking up with the love of their life and suffering for it, you keep them together and create another method of tension to keep the story spinning. Instead of the cop catching the suspect and it being over too soon, you can make the suspect escape police custody…have a dirty cop introduced…have the cop’s daughter kidnapped by the suspect.
Anything can happen in a story as long as you can dream it up. If you want your character to be tall so that they can reach things others can’t for a special purpose within the plot, then go ahead. You can stretch a character by a few inches or a foot when you get to editing, if it suits your purpose. If you prefer your character to be small, shy and nearly invisible to people, go back and change it. There’s nothing stopping you but you.
While in the real world you have to accept your actions and your words as having happened and deal with the consequences afterwards, a novel can always be improved or tweaked or changed right up until publication time. And by then, the only real issues you should be dealing with are grammar, spelling issues and wanting to shift this word over here. And in the grand scheme of things, those changes aren’t nearly as important as all those little details you include that make a character real.
Pain, love, suspense, tears, experience, laughter…your character will feel them all at some time or another, either inside your head or on paper. Characters can be much more expressive than real people; if there’s someone you have a crush on and they don’t seem to notice you…in your book it can be the other way around, or he can be secretly crushing on you and too shy to admit it. Or maybe he doesn’t seem to notice you because he’s a hot vampire who knows he’s too dangerous to be with you, but he just can’t help himself.
If there’s something you’ve always wished you had the chance to say to someone, dead or alive, put that down on paper…make your characters live out your world the way you wish things had gone or will go. It’s your world. Do what you want with it. Use it. It’s great therapy to say or so things in your story, through your characters that you wouldn’t normally say or do. The limits of a story are only the limits you set yourself…your story can take place in any time, place, planet, country, world you want it to. Your characters can be vampires, werewolves, humans, witches, goblins, hobbits, centipedes…anything you want them to be. It’s your story. Use your imagination.

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