So the question is – should you care about the characters you create, as living breathing creatures, or treat them as pieces to be moved around the chess board of your story? (Is that metaphor a little strained? Meh, I’ll go with it)
Until this year, I was passionately, firmly on the side of care about them, yes, treat them as real!
This year, I have been working on two books, side by side. In one, I care deeply about my characters. I love them. I cry when they die (I kill off my characters a lot). I cry when they fall in love! I ache with pain and pity when they hurt, and I cheer when they win.
However, in the other book, I didn’t really care about them at all. I cheerfully manipulated them into dangerous situations. I blithely explored all the reasons and influences for why they behaved the way they did, without really liking how they had turned out. I heartlessly used every trick in the metaphorical book to evoke my reader’s sympathy, tears and cheers for the characters, without feeling any of those emotions myself. But I know them very well, both their virtues and their faults. They cannot fool me.
And truth to tell, neither book has turned out so bad.
I’m still too close to the books to tell which is better. Ask me in two years time, when I can read them dispassionately, and I can tell you. But for now, I’m curious – is it so very important to love our characters? Or is it enough to just understand them?