I don’t know how other writers experience their characters, but I have an immense fondness for mine. They are like friends, hanging out in my brain with me. Having adventures and bringing me along. When they are victorious, I cheer; when they are victims of tragedy, I am solemn. And unlike real people, I experience characters at many different stages of their life in the same instant – I know their beginning, and I can see a dozen moments in their futures at once. Hypotheticals, yes, but in the moment feeling like they are carved in stone.
There is a series I came up with in 2007 or so, only a few years into my dreams of becoming a screenwriter. A show about assassins with a moral code, it was my doomed love for a long time before I realised that my fumbling attempts to bring it to life had failed, probably for good. The series itself, I had outgrown the stories and the world. The plot doesn’t add up. I’m a different person than I was when I created it, to the point where connecting with that world is like looking over a foggy cityscape. I can’t see the details.
But the characters! They live on with me, their voices as strong as ever. Though I never wrote a full script with them, I could, right now. Their banter, their sly looks and sharp quips and the massive issues they talk about by talking around them. I love them like the day I discovered them in some obscure corner of my brain, growing somewhat in complexity over the years as I do myself. I may never tell their story, but they stay with me. It’s hard to put into words. They truly are people, in the oddest sense.
Right now, I have many ideas at various stages of development, each with their own cast of specific characters. All of them live in an amorphous state between idea and script and production. Some have been acted by one or more actors, some are still uncast and detailed only in my mind. Most of them belong to me, but some, legally, don’t any more. And yet they remain in my head, in their purest form, no matter what happens to them in the outside world. My head is like a castle, with these myriad personalities milling around, keeping to themselves or chatting or having a beer together in the corner discussing my betrayals. Even those whose stories will never truly be told aren’t locked away, but roam free with the rest. Some stay alone in their rooms; they are still forming, still seeking the nuances that will match them to their peers. Some never properly form and fade to dust, forgotten in the sense that they never really were, beyond a sketch of a possibility.
More than my desire to succeed, or to tell stories, is to honour these characters. To bring them to life and, in a way, to make them more real. That’s why I write.