What Readers Don't Know
My former life, before that of a writer, was that of a teacher. In other words, I was paid to open my brain and spill out all its contents to my captive audience. If I succeeded in garnering their attention at least until test time, I won (in mind).
Writing isn't all that different. However, now my audience is older and full of volunteers. There's no test, although I am contemplating devising a few.
My biggest weakness, however, remains. I don't want to stop spilling. If I know it, I want you to as well. I like to share everything but my dessert, the kryptonite of my generosity.
A novelist must develop every character she creates. Obviously, some are more important to the story than others and require more growth and detail. But everyone is in the story for a reason, and that reason needs to be explored.
There's something about creating life, even in the world of make-believe. In the fabrication of a character, the author can right the wrongs in her own life, or invent flaws to twist the story into ridiculous directions. Complicated characters are a lot more fun than the simpler-minded ones. Sometimes, a well-made character can even frustrate an author with the argument of how his plan of life should go when it wasn't the original direction of the author's story.
Here's my dilemma. Reverting back to that teaching mentality of the omniscient knowledge-giver, I wish to impart to you, the reader, everything I know, everything I have devised in my characters, everything I know will happen in the story. I'm terrible about spoiling surprises.
As an author, I've had to put a cap on what I know. I had to develop my characters and forget their motives. To tell you outright what anyone else other the main character is thinking insults your ability to learn and derive it for yourself, and it impedes the growth of the main character as he figures it out also.
As much as I would love to tell you it's going to all be okay, I know it's more fun for you as a reader to suffer with the depravity of the character. You don't want to know ahead of time. You want to see him get into trouble, not have another character blow it for you. This also gives you the chance to harbor feeling about the other characters, whether they deserve the appropriated emotion or not. What do they care? They aren't real.
Ouch. That's where I need to give up control. In a matter of days, I gave birth to, raised, and possibly killed my characters. I wove their emotions into the invisible lives of those around them. In doing so, I braided in a piece of myself to each one. They are "my" people, and I have rights to their very souls.
But you, the reader, are real. You have feelings too. And you are the reason I write the stories. I want to tell you everything, because to me, everything matters. Like the doting grandparent who sits the random visitor down at the kitchen table in front of multiple photo albums of the baby's every hiccup. You don't need to know when my character last sneezed. You will need to know a character was witness to another's crime, but to find it out later will give you more suspense.
So I will keep my secrets the best I can. I don't like stepping back and letting go of control. But for you, my audience, I relent. Enjoy, my friends, these who have been created for your pleasure.
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