I’m old. While in the 7th grade I read the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I survived. While attending a Catholic High School, in the 10th grade, The Catcher in the Rye was required reading. Somehow I made it to adult status.
Characters come from the writer’s imagination. Yes, they are sometimes based on people the writer has come across or even read about but the characters and stories ultimately belong to the author, who may choose to share them with other people.
I feel we now live in a society that at times believes it has the right to tell the author what is acceptable and what is not in creating characters and plot lines. For me, not only is that dangerous but destructive. Could Tom Sawyer or Holden Caulfield be written in today’s climate? Possibly Holden, never Tom.
As some of you know, in recent years, I’ve been writing 2 different series. One is about Alex Schuler, who at 10 years old began reading a book where he met all the US Presidents. The other is about Townsend Seeger, who is an attorney with a habit of killing people. Very different stories with different characters for different audiences. For months I’ve bounced back and forth attempting to write each series with little success and I couldn’t figure out why. Yes, it’s partially due to the fact I had some serious health issues and surgeries, which forced me to take medications that altered my focus and desire to write. However, that wasn’t the only reason.
Writing for me was no longer enjoyable. I didn’t know why. I think I’ve become aware and hope to change it starting today, well tomorrow. Today I have a date with my grandson. After my recovery from heart surgery, my confidence in writing was low. I would allow others to read some snippets of my stories before the first draft was finished. Most times, the readers were other writers.
Sadly, I’ve now lost friendships over my sharing. I’ve realized that not only writers but even past readers attempted to force me to write the stories and characters the way they wanted and not the way I wanted. Writers should know better. After all, the characters and stories are mine. I lost my desire to create because I no longer was creating the stories my way. I attempted to write them in a way where others suggested I should write them.
For example, Alex is now 16 in the Presidential stories and of course he should talk and act like a 16 year old kid. Sometimes they are rude. Sometimes they disobey. Sometimes they might even disagree with past Presidents. How could a young boy, who has met everyone from Washington to Trump, not have an opinion about politics or taxes? How could Alex be himself and not be a flawed character? How could an author not interject their own opinions through the characters even when they try not to do so? I found in allowing others to read snippets that they weren’t being critical of the story, they were being critical because the characters of Alex or Townsend or even Miss Cherry weren’t being the characters the readers wanted them to be.
My mistake was listening to them and attempting to write characters with no flaws, who were very boring but politically correct in today’s society. It zapped all the energy and enjoyment from my writing.
I’m going to play trucks and maybe read a book with my grandson this afternoon and tomorrow go back to writing the characters the way I want to write them for me. I hope you will enjoy them if I choose to share but in the end, I had to remind myself that if I’m not happy writing, then a reader will notice. I hope you can learn from my mistakes. One last thought. Why are there only red fish and blue that number one and two?