Let’s be honest. It’s a whole bunch of fun to create characters who always say and do the right things. And even when they say and do the wrong things, it’s because you made them that way.
Writing is like casting the ultimate spell. We have the power to turn our craziest fantasies into fiction. Dress up our protagonists in costumes. We have so much more control over our heroes and heroines than we do our kids or significant others or our friends. I suppose in some ways writing is like playing dolls or “let’s pretend” for grown-ups.
As a kid, I’d go into my family’s only bathroom and imagine all sorts of scenarios. It was the only room with a lock in the house. Needless to say, I did not make myself too popular with the three other people who lived there. But in my wildest imagination, I never would have foreseen that umpty-ump years later, I’d be writing books. I used to get criticized for “dreaming.” Now I consider it my job to dream.
Still, it’s not always easy to get your characters to cooperate fully. Sometimes they have dreams of their own. They surprise you on the page. They say things you didn’t think of. They even change their names. Take Sir Michael Xavier de Bayard in Mistress by Mistake. He just didn’t like the”de.” Too French. He fought the Frogs valiantly in the Peninsular War and was going to distance himself, no matter his Norman ancestry. He’s now just Sir Michael Xavier Bayard, Bay to his friends.
He was Major Sir Michael Xavier de Bayard to me long before he ever consented to be in the current book—originally he was supposed to escort a freckled young widow and her teenage pupil from India to England in quite another story, but he was having none of that. The logistics were onerous. There were going to be elephants. Uprisings. Swarms of locusts. Desert sands. Altogether too much research about Mr. Waghorn’s overland route. The teenage pupil had designs on him too, and he thought that was awkward and undignified. He has now happily retired from the army and has a fine oceanfront property in Dorset, where he is busy falling in love with his new heroine Charlotte Fallon, who is not the freckled young widow Delia Winters at all. I think we all share the relief except for the naughty schoolgirl Alice, who was last seen in her shift up in a banyan tree in the seventeen abandoned unnamed pages where she and Major Sir Michael and Delia made their ill-fated debut.
So, how are your love potions bubbling along? Is your wand working or do you want to recharge the batteries? Are your characters behaving? Time to bitch, witches. And have a Happy Halloween!