She was across a crowded room. Or was it on the platform as my train sped away? (Or was I on the platform and her train sped away?) Maybe it was her I saw on that late night stroll down the Champs d’ Elysee. She was on the other side of the boulevard. When I rushed to her side she had disappeared. (Mysteriously, of course.)
I can’t remember where I first saw the mystery woman I fell in love with.
Actually, my wife doesn’t have too much to worry about. She knows that two years ago I fell in love with Detective Kristen Conner, the lead character in my novels Cuts Like a Knife and Every Breath You Take (and Cold as Icethis fall), so I’m not going anywhere.
Coming to love my own novel heroine may still might seem a little bit strange, but I suspect I’m not the first writer or reader to fall in love with an imaginary character.
I have a long history in publishing and as a writer but don’t consider myself to be an expert on the craft of writing. I’ve taken classes and read books on the subject, but most of what I know about writing comes from my passion as a reader.
So when people ask me questions about how I went about writing my novels—for example, how in the world did you write first person in a woman’s voice so convincingly?—I just shrug my shoulders and say, “I’ve read an awful lot of books and that sure helped.” (By the way, as the father of three daughters, writing in a young woman’s voice wasn’t nearly as hard as it sounds. I’ve witnessed and experienced a lot of dramatic material just from keeping my eyes and ears open.)
One question I’ve been asked a lot is, “Where did you learn to write to get your character to come to life?”
I loved the question and took it as a great compliment, but I didn’t have an answer, so I puzzled over that one for a bit.
I finally figured it out. Kristen Conner came to life (along with a really interesting serial killer who likes to keep a journal) and then I wrote Cuts Like a Knife.
I’m not a good enough writer to make a character come alive. I never had an imaginary friend as a kid, but apparently, I have enough voices in my head that a character can rattle around in there, come to life, and write herself onto the pages of a book for me.
Whether you are a reader or writer, next time a person from the book—notice I didn’t say character—walks off the page and into your heart, there’s a good chance you or someone else didn’t write a real person, but discovered him or her.