January 06, 2007

The Readers Have Spoken. The Bastards.

Laurell K. Hamilton is, I gather, the author of a popular series of vampire books, only known to me because of this widely-linked (and possibly rather ill-advised) lengthy essay denouncing her "negative readers." Here's a snip of the section in which she responds to complaints that her books have too many characters and suggestions that she depopulate them by killing some of them off. As she correctly points out, this would have the infelicitous effect of ruining Christmas:

My characters are real to me in a way that makes me miss them. For God's sake, I'll be in the mall and see something, and go, "Oh, it's the perfect gift for (fill in the blank)." I've been in line with the present in my hand, before I go, "Wait, these are make believe people. I can't buy them a Christmas present." I guess I could, but there's no way to give it to them. They aren't THAT real. But they are real enough that I see things that make me think of them in the way you think of a boyfriend or a husband, or a best friend...

The holidays are only just past. Think back to the moment you stood in line, or saw in the window, that perfect gift. The one that you knew would make someone smile. That gift you knew, you just knew, would light their faces up. Remember how warm and happy it made you to find that present. Remember the anticipation of the joy it would bring the person you care about? Now, remember that I've done the same thing for many of the characters you would have me kill...

Or maybe this will not move you, maybe you do not feel for the loneliness of the vampires that have not known love for centuries...

I always feel like a sap when called upon to say that my characters "feel real" to me, even though they kind of do. Still, I've never had the urge to buy them presents. A friend of mine did once cast horoscopes for a few of them, though, which I found strangely absorbing.

(via Bookshelves of Doom.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at January 6, 2007 05:02 PM | TrackBack

Sometimes characters die even when the author wishes it weren't so. I've heard several "when I realized [blank] had to die I felt terrible" stories, most recently Neil Young, talking about Greendale.

Posted by: Bill Weitze at January 6, 2007 08:01 PM

Characters should feel real... but I'm guessing you didn't go Chrsitmas shopping for Tom and Sam.

Oh, and you didn't start out writing an amazingly vivid series about a tough as nails vampire slayer only to have it devolve into poorly written, poorly edited schlocky S&M after your first marriage fell apart and you got remarried to your biggest fanboy.

And, you haven't created an elaborate fantasy world for yourself where Tom is obviously your avatar, only to go berserker when anyone points out the obvious to you.

And sometimes characters HAVE to die- and it takes a damned good writer to do it effectively. Death is a natural part of life and to pretend it isn't is unhealthy.

And yes, I know I shouldn't start sentences with "and."

Posted by: Amber at January 8, 2007 12:13 PM

A husband or a boyfriend?

I always pictured writers planning their story in such a way that if the writer does it skillfully enough, plot and character are used to convey something specific that the author intends. She sounds like she just creates some characters and has them wander around for a few hundred pages, like she has no control over their actions.

Posted by: josh at January 8, 2007 07:13 PM

Can't she just write them presents? That's what I do.

Posted by: Duncan at January 14, 2007 01:47 AM

Frank, it is quite pretentious of you to compare your characters - mere mortals - to thousand-year-old vampires who have not been tickled by love in hundreds of years.

Sarcasm aside, what the fuck is this broad thinking? Vampires are *supposed* to die at the end of every story they are in. An stake in the heart, the sunrise, a crucifix to the forehead, garlic... whatevs... vampires are literary cannon fodder.

Anyone that writes or read books where the Vampire is the protagonist should visit their guidance counselor for a closed-door session asap.

Posted by: chris riordan at January 20, 2007 12:55 AM