I’m obsessed with Heather, as well as a dozen of her friends and enemies. She took over my walk at the Y this morning, causing me to lose count of my laps and then led me on a ramble around the parking lot before I remembered that I had parked in a new spot. She’s quite the character.
I searched the internet to find out if I should worry and, to my relief, learned that I’m not suffering from anything that will require therapy. According to Psychology Today, “obsessions”are unwanted thoughts we can’t control. I want my thoughts about Heather and company; she’s the protagonist in my novel and if I’m ever going to finish the multiple drafts necessary to create a polished product, we will probably live together over the next few years, even though we’ll get sick of each other, since we’ve already hung together for the past fifteen months.
Heather is a slippery character; just when I think I know her inside and out, she changes on me, which causes the need for endless revisions. My writing instructor — a master plotter — also continues to throw out suggestions that cause my head to spin like Linda Blair’s character in “The Exorcist.” “She needs a love interest,” she’ll say, or “Have her do such and such.” Great idea, I think, but not great timing. But that’s the attitude of a naive me who thinks I ought to be able to whip this out in the same amount of time as the staff newsletters I used to write.
The process of living with Heather has revealed interesting things about me, namely that it’s hard to create a character who doesn’t share my inhibitions and fears, and that I have to change so that she can. I started by making her introverted, like I sometimes am, and only gradually through many rewrites, have I given her characteristics that work best for the story. I gain courage as I give it to her.
The only people who may be bothered by my near obsession are friends who’ve never met Heather, have no idea she exists, and may wonder why I’m drifting out of conversations as I ponder what she should do when she meets a new obstacle. I can’t talk about her to anyone who’s not in my critique group, so I keep her locked inside my head and hope she doesn’t speak out at an inopportune moment. If she does speak, here’s hoping others are familiar with the USA Network’s slogan: “characters welcome.”