Do you ever dream about your characters?
I do. I did. Just the other night.
Disclaimer: I happen to think my husband is the most wonderful man alive. Not the most perfect man, but certainly the most wonderful and the one I love the most. We have the happiest, most stable marriage of just about everyone we know, and I think that’s because we like each other, make each other laugh, are both strong individuals who haven’t really changed a lot since we were married. Or if we have, we happened to have both changed at the same time, which is very fortuitous. Plus, we just love each other.
However. I am somewhat of a hopeless romantic at heart, and I’m not above having romantic thoughts about other individuals. Fortunately, they’re usually fictional people; characters in books or movies or faces I might see on a train, handsome faces I then imbue with some sort of romantic backstory and we meet, have an affair and part, nobly, by the end of the train ride and nobody gets hurt. Because it’s all in my head.
As an author, I really have the best of both worlds. I get to be my heroine – she’s not really me, but I’m her because I make her up, and get to live her life out on the pages as I write. And since most of the books I write have some kind of love story, I also get to fall in love. My books aren’t romances, and the love story is rarely the main plot of the book, but it’s there.
Now, there are just a few ways you can write a love story. You can do the old “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.” Or the old “hate at first sight, then finally these two crazy kids realize they’re made for each other in the end.” Or you can have the slow build up; the relationship builds over time, because of character or somewhat realistic plot points (not silly contrivances such as paralyzing car accidents or aliens landing in cornfields); the two protagonists look at each other longingly throughout the book and only get together at the very end.
That’s the kind of book I just finished. And the other night, as I was nearing the end, I finally got to write the first big, exquisitely romantic love scene. And it was dreamy. Tears filled my eyes. When I turned off my computer, I sighed like a heroine in a bad romance novel.
And then I went to bed, and dreamed of my tall, dark, handsome and myopic male protagonist.
This is the best part of being an author. Forget all the other stuff – the seeing your name on a book or having your best friends come up to you and explain that although yours isn’t the type of book they usually read, they made an exception and to their great surprise, they actually liked it! No, the best part is living with these amazing characters, living their lives on the pages, creating believable people and soulful moods that linger with you long after you’ve finished.
And dreaming about them at night.
Now, if you’re smart, you will have told your husband the name of your protagonist ahead of time, so that he doesn’t get unduly alarmed when he hears you turn over in bed and breathe his name.
If you’re REALLY SMART – but not entirely truthful – you will have told your husband that you based this dream man on him.
And if your husband is REALLY REALLY SMART, but also a just a little bit dense and smug, he will pretend to believe you.
So there you go. My tips for a happy marriage, and happy writing, for the hopeless romantic at heart.