My book is published. The characters are making their way in the world. So now what am I supposed to do?
I miss them. I really do. Does that sound ridiculous? I invented them. I gave them their sense of humor, their joie de vivre, their depressions and their joys. I gave them families, friends, lovers. Gave them gorgeous clothes and expensive jewelry. I gave them life. They owe me!!!
Elie was the first character I started to develop – naturally – because she’s the main character. She’s the just-turning fifty woman who’s about to celebrate her milestone birthday as the story opens. She doesn’t think about mid-life crisis, or empty nest syndrome or philandering husbands. She’s a New York career woman – an executive editor at a top design magazine – and she has her life together.
Syd is the spicy upstairs neighbor. She’s sixty and stunning, kind of a cougar actually. She is a strong, opinionated woman who does not take crap from anyone. She may be over-sixty but she’s not like any sixty year-old I’ve ever met. I’ve told my friends about her. I’ve encouraged them to go out with her. What world am I living in?
Chloe is the daughter I never had. A sexy, smart twenty-something young woman, she’s just entering the world of business, relationships and tough decisions. I don’t envy her, but maybe I’m a bit jealous. Everything is ahead of her – all of life’s surprises and heartbreaks.
Then there’s Michael – the gay fifty year-old man who always makes me laugh. Is he arrogant? Yes. Is he over-the-top pretentious? A bit. But he’s funny and talented and right on in so many ways – I wish I could get a dose of him once in a while.
One night, my husband came home while I was in the midst of a writing frenzy. He took one look and my face and panicked.
“What’s wrong. You don’t look so good.”
“Izzy’s got cancer.” I just blurted out.
He looked stunned “Who the —- is Izzy?”
“And who the —- is Elie?”
He wanted to kill me when he found out I was talking about my characters. Then he started to laugh.
Irony of ironies? Izzy isn’t even in the book. She got axed by my editor. All the time I spent researching diseases and treatments. All that worrying!
I didn’t have an imaginary friend when I was a child. Perhaps I still long for one. I do, however, remember fantasizing about having to perform as if I were someone else. Being forced to step into another person’s shoes, but without her background and knowledge. That caused me so much stress that I was always relieved to come back to my own reality. Am I now making up for the lack of that friend?
What I do know is that living with the characters for the duration of the writing period establishes a bond. How could you not think of them, miss them, wonder about them later on?
They are so real to me. Tillie for instance – the overbearing Jewish mother character was based on real life. So much real life that my experience with the real Tillie caused me to seek out an orphan husband when marrying a second time. She’s the person we all love to hate – the stereotypical mother-in-law who thinks her son is god. While she got the brunt of my hostility, I redeemed her later on. I loved her in the end. I so wish I could chat with her now.
I suppose I’ll either have to say farewell to these characters, bring them into my next book or find some way to keep them in my life.