I heard it said once that once a book is out in the world, the characters no longer belong to the author, but instead the reader. I didn’t pay much attention to this tidbit at the time and frankly, as an author, I wasn’t quite so certain I believed it. I rarely think about my readers, all of you out there sitting down with a copy of one of my books and diving in. I have a hard time thinking about someone getting lost in the characters that I create as I do on occasion when I’m reading a particularly great book. Reading becomes harder when you’re a writer, I’m sure many of you have heard a writer say that before. It’s not so much that we’re constantly critiquing the works, it’s just harder to lose yourself in a story.
So back to that statement… I don’t know that I tend to feel particularly possessive about other people’s characters very often. But it has happened. Most recently it happened when I finally succumbed to Hunger Game mania and I dove in. Within a week I had downed all three books and I felt quite thankful that I had waited as long as I did so that I could gorge on all the books instead of waiting for their release as I had done with the Harry Potter books.
But it was after I had read the books and I was sitting in the theatre with my niece watching the movie. She hadn’t seen it and I had taken the advantage of my sister being in town to watch my kids so I could take her daughter to see it since she is also a lover of the books. I became agitated in the movie, annoyed at some of the younger audience members who giggled and snickered during some particularly tender moments. And I realized in that instant why, it was because I was offended that they weren’t getting it, they were making these moments cheap and belittling them. Because those were MY characters. That was MY Katniss and MY Peeta and they could just leave if they couldn’t appreciate what was going on on the screen. Now granted much of the emotional progression of the characters was missing from the movie for the sake of time, but still the movie does a lot very right.
Every now and then you read books. Magical books that dig inside you and burrow deep into your soul. Characters that hang on and refuse to let go. Lots of books are great, wonderful even, but some books go beyond just a good story. Their worlds become so real, so engrossing that to leave them is nearly painful, as if you’re grieving a dear friend. I don’t want to leave the world of the Panem, of Katniss and Peeta and Gale and Haymitch. I don’t want to walk away from them. I felt this when the Harry Potter series ended. Satisfied with the way the story was told, but also a great sadness that the tale was over, that my journey with the characters had come to an end. Of course I can re-read them, but nothing ever feels the same as that first time turning the pages as fast you can (or clicking the kindle button as was my case) and grabbing on to every word so as to not miss one morsel of story.
I don’t know if I ever accomplish that as a writer. I don’t know if I have any readers out there who have been that engrossed in the worlds I create. Mine aren’t as unique and original as those you find in books with a more fantasy bent. But when I read books like these, they make me want to be a better writer, make me want to strive to create characters that haunt readers all the way into their dreams, that make readers clutch the book to their chest and sigh heavily when its all said and done because they’re sad to leave the characters and the world in which they dwell.
So how about you? Can you easily lose yourself in the world of books? What are some of your favorites that have totally captured you and made it hard to leave the characters?