Thursday, October 8, 2009

One of the funnest parts about writing is that you get to create whole new people out of thin air, and not have to do that pesky pregnancy/parenting thing. Unfortunately, one of the frustrating parts is that these people will never live in the real world the way they live in your mind. You can give people a close approximation, like how I tell everyone that Nathan looks just like Gerard Butler; he does, but not totally. There are things about him that just look like Nathan. What I should be telling people is that someone might mistake Nathan for Gerard Butler if they ran into him in the street, but upon closer examination they would realize that his nose is a little less straight, and his eyes are a different shape, and when he smiles, he doesn't show as many teeth. Little details.

It was fun to work on Blood Ties because it lasted so long. I was writing those books for five years. That's longer than some people stay at one job, and I got to make my coworkers as mild or as irritating as I wanted to. I'm not one of those writers who believes the characters can get away from you and become their own people, but I do believe they took turns that I had subconsciously planned while consciously planning against them. Like Cyrus refusing to leave the story, or be the villain I had imagined to be. And like Carrie not falling head-over-heels for Nathan as she did in the first draft.

But again, it's frustrating, because you're never able to accurately convey to people what you're thinking or seeing in your head. I will go so far as to say that even the very best writers probably get fan letters from people that make them scratch their heads and say, "Wait, what are they talking about? That isn't what [insert character here] is like at all!" because there is only so much power in the written word. If you tried to write an accurate description of your best friend, you'd still only be painting about 25% of the picture.

Then, there are the details that the reader can't help but add in for you. We all do this when we're reading, I'm sure. I know there have been times that I've read a book and been so sure that a character had dark hair, then been completely stunned to run across a description of sunlight picking out golden highlights in her blonde hair. It doesn't matter if the first line of the very first page is, "Jane Heroine was a blonde girl. Blonde, blonde, blonde." Somehow, I got a different impression in my head.

Today, on VH1, I saw the closest physical approximation of Cyrus as I have ever seen. I'd been telling people that I'd based his appearance on a young Julian Sands. That's partially true. In fact, I had drawn him up in my mind before I came up with the "young Julian Sands" description, and that actor was the only one who fit my mental picture with enough clarity to be added to my "Book of Wonder," the binder where I keep pictures of all of my characters. But let's see how our ideas of how Cyrus looked stack up. This is the young gentleman that made me actually stop what I was doing and think, for a really crazy second, "wait, did Cyrus join a band?"

Does this guy look exactly like Cyrus looked in my head? Not exactly. But damned close. And I bet he doesn't look anything like the way you imagined from my description of him.

Isn't it funny how the mind works?

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