On Letting Someone Go (In Fiction and In Life)

Harsh truths out of the way first: there’s no such thing as forever.

We grow apart from where we started out. Whether or not we change or just better understand why we feel the way we feel, we grow, we evolve, and time is the greatest catalyst of all. We can’t escape change. We can say that there’s no way that we right now, in our late twenties and early thirties (my peers, in this case) are the same as we were when we were just starting college, or graduating it, etc.

Same can be said for relationships and friendships, whether written or real-life.

I’ve always said that blood is water-soluble. It’s true in chemistry and in life. While you can’t choose the people whom you’re born to, you have every freedom in the world to choose your association with them. Just because someone is born as your blood family member doesn’t automatically qualify them as a good person to be around. Ask the survivors of narcissistic parents, ask abuse survivors whether or not they will ever associate with their family members, and you will find that their answer will be an immediate and unequivocal no way.

Why is that? Simple: just because someone is family doesn’t mean they 1. are a good person and 2. deserve a relationship.

There’s a pretty great meme that has gone around, a meme that says, “You are the CEO of your life. Promote, demote, and terminate accordingly” – paraphrased. It’s a sentiment I wholly agree with, having done all of the above to nearly every relationship I’ve had.

Yes, you can pick your family, if you let go of the idea that family = blood. And you will find that the family you pick can sometimes be a lot better than the family you were born into.

Consider this, ladies and gents: you are under no obligation to accept someone’s bad behavior if their behavior affects your own quality of life. You’re also under no obligation to allow someone to make you feel bad just because you happen to be related to them or their friend for multiple years. You, and yourself, are the first priority in your life and livelihood, regardless of whether or not there are other people in your immediate life. If you don’t take care of yourself, and if you don’t take the time to make yourself the best you are capable of being, then who else will?

This isn’t the time to say “my husband” or “my children” or “my wife”. No. YOU are the first and sole person responsible for your well-being at the end of the day. Marriages can end. Your children can move away from you and get busy in their own lives, since they are people in their own right. Where would that leave you?

And that is the primary reason why I, once again, say: be selective with who is allowed in your life. Be selective. Be picky. Be very, very, very picky. Yes, it can be a lonely road to follow, but what you will see, some years down the line, is that you will be surrounding yourself with far better quality individuals than before. Your life and well-being are both influenced by the people you surround yourself with, and if you surround yourself with people that lift you up as opposed to bring you down – well, the possibilities become endless.

But life and living stuff aside, let’s not forget that we, as writers, create our own relationships, especially with our characters. They are our children, of sorts, regardless of whether or not we have kids; these characters have been created by us, created down to the way they take their coffee in the morning, and there is nothing quite like the relationship that we, the authors, build with them.

When it comes to Arriella in particular, my main character in The Index Series,  I feel like a mixture of friend and parent to her, even though 1. she’s not technically real outside of my books, and 2. she’s a product of my own brainpan. But that’s exactly why I feel that way about her: she’s the product of my brain. I conceived her, her abilities, her personality, her hang-ups, and put it down on paper (or screen, if you must get technical), and I also conceived her relationship, especially to the brothers Shou and Kian. In determining how they started and how they ended up, well, you can just say my own brain is a mess, but in writing Books 1 through 4, I couldn’t help but become the “parent” figure to Arriella, in a sense. Her need to protect people clashed mightily with the fact that she had very strong and obvious feelings that she didn’t know what to do with.

But when it came to Shou – and those of you who hadn’t read Book 4, you may not like me very much for this – I realized that even though I killed him off pretty quickly, I couldn’t quite let him go. Not easily. Not yet.

Sure, technically he was dead. But his cause of death in and of itself was a plotline, but moreover, I wasn’t ready to let him go. Arriella certainly wasn’t, and she had gone to some extreme lengths to try and keep her grief at losing him under wraps, including but not limited to fighting a war. But she was too close to him, and I had invested too much time entirely in writing the brothers to let Shou go so easily. He was not just Kian’s twin, but he was Arriella’s closest friend and, for a while, lover. To just yank him out of the story as a victim was just too abrupt. So yes, there will be signs of Shou to follow, but I can’t tell you what’s where as of yet. I have to edit Book 5, but before I do that, I need to spend some time and actually finish Book 8. -_- Yeaaah. The boon of multitasking and writing.

But you can see the problem and the benefit in the fact that I wasn’t able to let the character of Shou go just yet. The benefit is the storyline, obviously, but the problem is one that, in real life, has drastic consequences: holding onto something- or someone – that has long outworn its welcome creates more problems than there have been in the first place. Yeah, I got my plotline all right, but the more I think about it, the more I think that it may have broken the canon of the world I’ve spent years writing into existence, even if everything looks to be fitting well together.

There is nothing wrong with drifting away from people, whether they’re fictional or not, but I warn you, as someone who spends quite a bit of time around people and lives in one of the most densely populated places in the world: when you start to feel like the person you’re around is really  not bringing anything to the table anymore, and if you see more drawbacks than benefits to being in the friendship/relationship, it may well be time to reconsider letting it continue. And blood is water-soluble; it isn’t thicker than water in the least, and, as I have said before time and again, just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you’re obligated to 1. like them and 2. associate with them. There’s no shame in saying no to something negative.

For my books, please visit this link: http://amzn.to/1kcgyjy


When Characters Surprise You: Getting Re-Acquainted With Arriella

In spite of the overwhelming amount of stress at work, and despite the fact that I’ve been working ten-hour days for the past two weeks, with barely a half a day off, I began toying around with Book 4 again.

You know when you come back to someone whom you’ve not seen for a while, and suddenly you find yourself surprised by how much that person had changed? It could be an old friend, a relative whom you’ve not seen for some years, and suddenly, they re-enter your life, and you are surprised by their level of personal growth.

I am starting to realize that, especially as you write a series, it’s much the same with the characters in your writing.

Now, I will proceed to wax literary reminiscence about one of my main characters. Get to know her. She’s a cool chick. But I’m putting it behind a Read More link, just in case. :)

Continue reading “When Characters Surprise You: Getting Re-Acquainted With Arriella”

Say it loud…and it’ll work.

This came up in a conversation with a fellow author, and a discussion in WriMore International on Facebook.

A writer had posted a simple statement: please tell me I’m not the only one arguing with fictional characters. And I answer, “By no means whatsoever.” What I also say is that sometimes, saying something aloud, or reading something aloud, would help you see exactly where the errors are.

Now, let’s extrapolate why, for a moment.

How many of you, my fellow writers, have tried to edit a heap of text on your own? If it’s past a certain amount, your eyes begin to cross. That is where you overlook certain things, and that is when a test reader would later come to you and say, “This reads awkwardly” or “This dialogue could be better.”

Whether or not you will have such feedback, or have received it already, there is much to be said for actually speaking in order to work through a scene. For one, you’re paying attention, and two, your involvement with your own characters is a little bit deeper if you’re actually listening, rather than just reading.

Come on, if you’ve ever yelled at the TV or movie screen, you know what I mean. You don’t yell at the TV out of nowhere; you do it because you’re in it, and you’re in it up to your neck.

Writing is something that carries a certain peculiar sort of actor-observer bias. Think about the yelling at the TV or movie screen. You get so absorbed into the story that you want to somehow reach the characters, because you know that there’s something that they’re not noticing. You feel what they feel, you feel as though you are caught in the situation right along with them, but there is still a fourth wall, so to speak, which separates the viewer from the character.

With authors, take the same sort of emotional involvement in the story, and remove the fourth wall, and add in the actor-observer bias.

While I technically shouldn’t use that term, I can find no better words to describe it. The author is in a very unique position: he or she is watching the characters interact, is writing out their interaction, and at the same time, is wanting to write or do something that comes from the knee-jerk reflex to tell the character, “NO! Do NOT do this! Not a good idea!” – even though the character must do this for the sake of the story turning out to plan.

I would often say this about my own books, and I’m sure that many people will tell you the same thing: the character tell the story for me. Character-driven stories involve quite a lot of frequent yelling at the computer screen, especially in the editing phase, wherein the author finds that the characters did a phenomenal stupid…or ten. But most importantly, it involves reading aloud.

Yes, your roommate, husband,wife, kid, dog, or cat may think you’re a little off your rocker, but know this: your eyes may not be able to tell what’s off in the scene, but your ears don’t generally hear a story being read. You’re cued in, and paying more attention. As such, whatever sounds off to you, whether you’re acting out your own character dialogue or are trying to get your scenery and phrasing together, then I can promise you, it will be better if you actually speak your story than just read and try to make sense of it. Because, as Book 1 had taught me the hard way, it is fully possible to burn out via your own story.