To Care or Not To Care

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?


2 responses to “To Care or Not To Care

  1. I’m under the impression that if I, as the author, feel nothing for the characters, than that will be transferred into the writing and therefore, the reader’s perception. If I am detached, the reader will be detached. If I am passionate, then they will be passionate. Of course, I’m assuming the character is well fleshed-out and believable. No amount of tender care or cold calculation will mean much of the reader sees cardboard posters where people should be.

  2. Good question. For me, I think its better to have a good blend. At least that’s how it turned out with the novel I sold a couple of months ago. I got to care about my characters quite a bit, yet I had no problem with putting them into a few tight situations that would move the story along so that the overall story wouldn’t become so wooden.

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