“Rachel, honey, if you begin to love books more than people, they have become a problem.” -Mom
I have a book problem.
But books are just so much easier than people! They embrace you, captivate you, and comfort you; leaving you brimming with insight and inspiration. People on the other hand, are messy. Not that books can’t be just as abrasive, just as crude, just as harsh; but unlike books, you can’t stuff people back on the shelf, satisfied to ignore for all eternity.
Not that I hate people. However, there were times in my life where I would have forsaken humanity entirely, if it meant I could snuggle in a fuzzy blanket with only characters for my companions.
People hurt. They hurt inside, and they will hurt you. Unfortunately, that is a fact of life, it comes with being human. We are flawed and prone to lashing out when confronted, challenged, or insecure. Sometimes it doesn’t even take that much, sometimes we are are just tired or hungry.
So why should we even try? Why not just sink into the safe oblivion of fantasy, leaving the pain of real relationships behind?
I discovered the answer to this while writing my own book.
The most crucial part of writing a book, is getting the characters right. Sure, we fall in love with the lands (I mean, who doesn’t want a letter from Hogwarts!). We fall in love with plots (Kaladain leaping the chasm in the Way of Kings- Be still my heart!).
But if the characters fall flat, your book will be impossible to read. It’s the people that capture you, steal your heart, and force you to surge forward devouring page after page.
Mine keep me writing.
They have come to life in my book, determining its journey by who they are, and who they are becoming. Lak Loshan makes me laugh, Talvenesh makes me want to rip out my hair in irritation, Kyla often brings me to tears, but they all have one thing in common:
They are flawed.
They make mistakes. They fail, and often, they fail again. They suffer as the world throws them into valleys of darkness and change, hopefully to emerge all the more stronger. They lash out at those they love, and sometimes don’t even recognize the pain they dealt. They are arrogant, stubborn, gullible, anxious, ignorant, insecure, and most of all, they are selfish.
So why don’t you write perfect characters?
Perfect characters aren’t real. We fall in love with characters because they struggle. Because they grow. Because they remind us of us.
Perfect characters are boring. They lack the unique inner turmoil that makes them so compelling, the wrestle of good and evil that leaves us breathlessly on edge, praying for goodness to win. So, if we don’t enjoy books about perfect characters….
Why are we forcing people to be?
Why don’t we take the time to hold their hands through the valleys, forgive them their insensitivities, celebrate their accomplishments? Why don’t we invest in the people before us, getting to know them as well as we know our favorite characters? Spend the time to understand their hearts, not just what we see on the surface. People are characters, just without luxury of a narrator describing exactly what is going on in their lives, and the feelings they have hidden inside their heads.
I am not saying that you won’t meet some villains, evil is very real, and the scales inside a person don’t always tip towards the good. But most people are not villains, just uncomfortable and messy characters still discovering their story.
To all you who have been hurt, who hide yourselves away in a book to escape the pain of real life, that’s ok. I have been there. Just take care to not grow bitter against reality, as I once did. It took me a long time to realize that my world is exactly the fantasy I want to live in.