Thursday, April 28, 2011

The End of the Affair

Over the years, I've written more than a dozen romance novels.  These manuscripts live in the bottom of my hard drive, coming out only once in a while or so to be re-read, re-loved, and wrapped up carefully again and put away.  They are, by default, for my eyes only.  Some of them I have tried to publish, been rejected, and tried again.  Each rejection leads to revisions, doubts, and self-flagellation.  But each rejection also makes me hug my creations closer.  My poor manuscripts.  If I don't love you, who ever will?  The answer is clearly no one.

Some of these manuscripts I have never submitted for publication.  These are truly creatures of my own midnight experiments, written long after the networks no longer air entertaining programs and most reasonable people are in bed.  I, too, should have been in bed on those nights where I was clattering away on my laptop and falling in love with my many characters.

Over the years, I have not only created more than a dozen loving couples (well, in the end they end up loving -- in the beginning of the book, they might fight like gladiators).  I've agonized over what they will do, what they will say, and, most importantly, how they will react to one another.  I've learned how they talk, walk, kiss, and make love.

But it's more than that.  I can obsess about my friends and family in that way (not that that would be at all healthy).  But my feelings for my characters go beyond mere interest, concern, curiousity or even love.

These are my creations.

I breathed life into each and every heroine, have molded each and every hero.  Given them names.  Given them their mannerisms, their laughs, their personal sense of style.

So how do I say good-bye to them?

Well, first of all, I've left my characters in a good place.  If I've done my job as a writer, all doubts and misunderstandings have been explained and swept aside.  All loose ends are tied in a tight little bow.  So, the plot is resolved.

Secondly, the characters have grown.  My plot has put them through a lot.  Their love has been tested, but even more so has their character.  The woman who never felt that she belong can find belonging in the dawning of her new life.  The man who was left bitter by betrayal can trust again.  And so on.  So the characters too have progressed to a place where they can be set free.

Lastly, and most importantly for me, the emotional rollercoaster I've put both characters and reader (singular, since it's often just me at this point) has come to an end and the paying ticketholders can exit the ride.  After running through the gamut of emotions, I can let everyone off of the hook, satisfied and cathartically released.  Because, really, isn't that what we all need -- to feel vividly alive as we read, yet knowing that we can put the book down at the end of the day and head back into our real real lives?

Now, of course, we have to put the book down and I have to press Save and store my completed file away.

Saying good-bye is like closing the book.  I suppose, literally, it is...The End.

Photo courtesy of nattavut at

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