There are characters that stretch across the globe: Harry Potter, Mickey Mouse, Elsa but where are they? That might seem an odd question but think about it. What makes these characters so big? It could be the fact that they’re available on almost any type of media you could want (that clearly helps). However the thing that I personally think makes these characters so absolutely huge is that, in a way, they live inside the minds of a huge portion of the world’s population.
We’ve all had that moment when we’ve watched a film adaptation of a book and thought that the actor playing a character is nothing like the person we pictured. We already have an idea about that character, we’re connected to our imagined image of them, and we can even feel a little annoyed at the casting people for making such a wrong call.
This goes to show that as soon as we’ve encountered a character we develop our own version of them and when millions of people know a character that makes for a huge multi-layered version of them spread over our planet.
OK so Jack and his friends aren’t in the same league as these characters, currently there are just a few dozen copies of ‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘ out there in the world but I am starting to get feedback trickling in about the book and one thing is becoming quite clear: I’m coming to the strange realisation that I have very little control now over the way that readers think about my characters.
In many ways they all kind of have a life of their own now. As the adventures of the book play out readers will inevitably be picturing Jack, Thea, Fynn, Sparky, Connor, Alyssa, Granny Reusen, and even Harold in ways I had never imagined.
It’s both amazing and very intimidating to be told that someone likes one of the characters because I’m still writing them and people might not agree with the direction some of the characters go in. I have to walk a fine line between character development and straying so far that people will feel cheated.
I made the decision from the very start to let my characters age, more than that I wanted them to develop, I want the events of each book to matter to them, in light of that each story will change them irrevocably. I can’t even imagine what this process feels like for big authors like Rowling and Landy (Skulduggery Pleasant).
For these authors there are literally millions of versions of their characters out there in the world. They must have to have nerves of steel when making changes and developing their characters. The only other alternative would be to play it safe like Disney did with Mickey and not develop their character at all over the course of nearly ninety years (considering Mickey’s success I guess there’s something to be said for ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it).
Personally I want my characters to feel human and a big part of that involves letting them develop but that doesn’t stop it from being intimidating when in the back of your mind you know that some readers might not be entirely happy with the changes you make.
Do you have any favourite characters who were spoiled by a writer/author? Are there some un-aging characters that bug you (personally I’d love to see the Simpsons grow up)? Feel free to comment below, all the best, John