Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Guest Author Post- Dreamwalk's author, Sarah MacManus! Wayward Book Characters.

About a month ago I had the great pleasure of reading Sarah's novel Dreamwalk (my review coming soon!), and I couldn't be more excited to have her stopping by today to talk about Characters taking on a life of their own.  So without further ado, Sarah!

Wayward Book Characters
Sarah MacManus

Someone asked me if the ending to Dreamwalk meant that Chloe and Shane would end up together. I had to tell the truth—I wasn’t sure.
How could I not be sure when I’m the one that invented them? A lot of writers will tell you: characters are a lot like kids. Just because they’re yours and you’ve ‘raised’ them doesn’t mean you can always predict their choices. Book characters tend to come alive and develop their own agendas, and even the author isn’t always exactly sure how or why this happens.  Maybe it’s the obstacles that the author puts in their way that affects them in unexpected ways? Perhaps it’s something seemingly innocuous that a secondary character says or does that changes, even just slightly, your protagonist and how they deal with their circumstances?
I wasn’t even sure Chloe and Shane would ever meet again, until I got to know Shane a bit better by putting him through all his struggles and seeing how he really reacted when the chips were down. He’s a bit of a flake, but he’s a loyal guy. He doesn’t make strong connections easily, but when he does, they’re solid. That’s when I realized that he’s exactly the kind of person who would bide his time and make sure that he’d be there at the right time.
I’ve had to argue with other characters in other books as well. One ultimately didn’t get written at all because the two main characters decided that they really didn’t want to go through all that angst. There was supposed to be drama and tumult. They were supposed to face cruel realities about themselves. They were supposed to tear each other apart—emotionally—and dissolve: older, wiser and much more humble. Instead, they decided to run away together to Austria and open a bookshop. In the face of that kind steadfast calm and determination, an author can only do so much.
I’ve had characters turn out to be far too unpleasant to work with and have had to fire them. When you decide to create strong, proactive characters, that’s sometimes the price you have to pay. Sometimes they turn out to be people you just don’t want to work with. Even odder is when you find that you really like one of your bad guys. It really throws the plot when you suddenly feel compelled to give them redemption.
Do Shane and Chloe end up together? They’re more mature, more settled in their careers and hopefully both more clear-headed. It’s anyone’s guess if it’ll be happy ever after or there will be a rain of broken crockery as soon as the honeymoon is over. Their chances are as good as anyone’s, and I think I’ve done my job in making sure they at least got that chance. But they’re on their own, now.
Perhaps I’m just not tough enough on them, but I’ve talked to other writers who’ve had the same problem with their characters. Setting off in odd directions. Going completely OOC with little provocation. Drawing strange conclusions from life lessons.
Rotten kids!
After the death of her mother, eighteen year old Chloe Hawthorn is haunted by terrifying nighttime hallucinations. Determined to take control of her dreams, she uses them to find Shane Anderson, a charming and troubled musician whose online videos have been holding her in thrall. She finds him in the Dreamtime, sweating out heroin detox in a run-down rehab center. 
Chloe sets out to find Shane in the waking world and discovers her dreams have been taking her into the past. Horrified, Chloe realizes Shane doesn't survive his addictions. In order to save him, Chloe must master her Australian mother's legacy — the secret of walking the Dreaming through time. But what price will Chloe pay for this Dreamwalk and will she save Shane only to lose him forever?

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