I have fallen in love.
My husband knows about it, and fortunately doesn’t mind. I do this on an alarmingly regular basis. I meet someone, get to know him and then fall so hard that for a while I can’t think of anything else. The feeling tends to ease off after a few days, but the love flares again the instant I’m in the presence of my beloved. Last night, the object of my current affection marched into a room to face down those who’d wronged him. Even in the face of greater numbers, with no apparent way to succeed against them, he didn’t hesitate or hide, his anger with the way the world had turned against him too great to be contained. The sorrow and rage he was struggling over turned my fondness into flame.
I’m talking about fictional characters, of course. *grin* Have you ever watched a movie or TV show, or read a book in which one particular character resonated with you so magnificently that it felt like love at first sight? Happens to me quite a lot. Don’t misunderstand, either, since I mentioned movies and TV – I am not talking about the actors. For one thing, I don’t want to bother with all that star nonsense. Actors do a fine job interpreting what a writer has written, but when it all comes down, I’m talking about the characters themselves.
Writers, when they are creating characters who’ll have staying power with readers, learn pretty quickly that perfect heroes are boring. Dull, tedious, boring. If Mick McHandsomeGuy can do everything, why bother reading any further? The fun of a great novel is in not knowing what will happen next. The best books are the ones that keep you reading long after you should have turned off the light and gone to sleep, all because you have to know what happens to the character you’ve become emotionally involved with. Some of them feel like friends. Others are so much more.
The first time I remember it happening was when I was very young. I fell madly, deeply, ridiculously in love with James West. It wasn’t just those tight pants (although they didn’t hurt!) but what made me fall so hard was his snarkiness. It’s a character trait I’ve appreciated ever since, as anyone who knows my husband can attest. I loved West so much I began writing stories about his adventures (I was never a character myself, but they call what I was doing “fanfic” nowadays.)
When I was in college, being relatively cash poor, I spent a lot of time in the used bookstore. I discovered a battered paperback book called Harpy’s Flight, by Megan Lindholm, and I was utterly enthralled by Vandien, a thief with heartache and shadows in his past. His growing love for Ki wasn’t the idealized love of old movies. It was the unintentional, confusing and wild flowering that happens to real people. Instead of taking the easy way out, Lindholm imbued serious depth to what could easily have been a cardboard character. So what if she was writing a plain old sword and sorcery novel? Vandien suffered and fought, and might have been killed at any time by the harpies who hunted them, yet had feelings blooming within him that he’d never expected. When I finished the fourth and final book in the Quartet, I wept. There would be no new stories of my love. It was almost as if he had died.
Another memorable love affair I had was with Phil Davies, pirate captain from the excellent novel On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. Davies was a man who’d been forced by circumstance to go on the account, but he was not at all common. His sense of humor was dry and brilliant. He didn’t trust a one of his men, but he’d do whatever it took to keep all of them alive. His skin had that sun-bitten darkness that only men who work outdoors ever get, and when Davies was on the deck of his ship, I could feel the wind tossing my hair and the heat of the sun, smell the ocean that had become his home. Again, a secondary character that could have served as window dressing came alive so vividly I lost my heart to him.
Falling for a fictional character is both heartbreaking and thrilling. Heartbreaking because I can never touch him, never have a conversation that isn’t already written. He doesn’t exist except in my imagination, and there he must remain. But that’s the exciting part – he is there, in my mind, to be called forth whenever I need to think of him. When I’m writing my own work, I can pull from my memory all the characters I’ve fallen for, blend their attributes and figure out how their creators did it, then write my own favorite people. None of my fictional loves are perfect – they have flaws, flaws which make them real and accessible and loveable.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go sigh over my new man. Nope, I’m not telling you who he is yet. My love is still new, so I’m not ready to share. While I’m busy, feel free to comment and tell us what fictional character you’ve fallen for, and what made it happen for you.
Don’t forget, the contest ends tomorrow at midnight. If you haven’t already posted your entry, don’t wait!