How fictional characters take on a life of their own.

Okay, so this is going to sound odd but…I was thinking about Adventure Time yesterday and how complex it is for an animated series. Now, you might be asking yourself: “What does this have to do with you as an author?” and I will get to that, but first bare with me a moment (I might have used the wrong bare in that sentence, it could be bear but I’m not spending the time to research it right now lol). Okay, so back to AT. When the series first started it was about this kid in an odd world who had a magical dog and they would go on adventures–hence the title–and save princesses who needed saving. (If you haven’t watched this show there is an unusual amount of princesses in the land of Ooo and I have a sneaking suspicion Princess Bubblegum made them all so she wouldn’t be the only one…but that is off topic, kinda.) Anyways, where the series is now there are tons of back stories arising which give depth and meaning to the characters in the story, not just Fin and Jake, and make it much more complex. We have learned that the bumbling bad guy is really a super nice hero stuck in a magically induced state of crazy as though he is permanently this alternate personality created by the magic that has kept him alive for a thousand years. We have learned that the world the story takes place in is actually Earth a thousand years in the future after a massive war which destroyed the planet. We also have learned that Princess Bubblegum is actually a mutated pile of ooz who is also a thousand years old. I’m telling you, the complexity of these characters is outrageous!

So now, what this means to me. Well, this isn’t the first time I have watched a TV series, or read a book, and thought: Wow, did they have that planned? How did that event work so perfectly with that other unconnected event from an episode/book in the series from two years ago?! The answer I have come up with as a writer is that fictional characters become real to their creators. The characters have their own personality, their own wants, dreams, and aspirations which drive them to make the choices they do in their fictional lives. Just like how the Ice King constantly kidnaps princesses in a vain attempt at finding love because he is really longing for his fiance, who he lovingly called “his princess,” from a thousand years in the past before the ice magic made him nuts. This kind of back story makes the characters more real to the fans, they can become invested in these fake peoples lives and wonder what the future might bring them. Such as with the Ice King, we recently learned Betty was actually brought to the future by himself, as his past self Simon, because she chose to go when he used a spell to say goodbye to her while his powers were taken away. Now she is on a mission to find a way to keep him alive and make it so he is not crazy and they can be together. 

Animated series, heck any series on TV, or books shouldn’t make you think about the characters  randomly in the day, wondering what will happen with them, if all will be well or if it will go to hell, right? No, wrong. If it is well written, if the characters have gone beyond the bounds of their creators to become something more, than those characters should be on the minds of their fans.

This kind of thing happens to me with the characters I create. The ones in the short stories always want that tie up in the end, Like Lucius and Amelia seeing her ex husband years later and her reading in his mind how miserable he was being married to the woman he was cheating on her with. Amelia wanted the readers to know her husband got exactly what he wanted and deserved, and so did she; happiness. They no longer live in my mind, speaking to me to write their tale, but Lizzy does. She has more story to tell for sure but that is not surprising since her original story concept was called: Confessions of a Sex Addict. That particular title heading will be making a resurgence, trust me.

As for my main book series, Annan, those people are so wide and varied I have back stories, for back stories, for back stories…no joke. Anyone could ask me any random thing and there would be an answer. There are reasons for things happening in book one that will not be discovered until book three or four, and not because I planned them that way but because the characters have. Saying that, or typing as the case may be, might sound slightly crazy, but it’s so true. If I had my way you all would know everything right from the get go. Why is Annan so pissed, why wasn’t she attracted to anyone before Sean, why does Sean act like Annan is everything in the world, what is the deal with Cesair? I really, really, really want to lay it all out and have everyone know everything but the characters are slow, either in their thinking–not that they are dumb, they just let emotion cloud reason the way real people do–or they are slow to reveal what they know, as is often the case with Cesair. Sometimes even I’m in the dark then all of the sudden, usually when I haven’t written in a while, some tid-bit of information is thrown at me when I’m washing the dishes or taking out the trash then the drive comes back and I have to visit their world again.

It’s like they are REAL PEOPLE whose only connection to the outside world is through me. The whole thing is strange and daunting, especially when I have self doubt in my ability as a writer. A story teller? Forget about it! I could tell stories on the fly until I’m blue in the face, but actually getting them down on digital paper and making them consumer friendly is difficult. There are so many rules and ways to make errors. BUT, the clarion call of all these fake people I made up back in 2008 is being heard and I must answer.

Which brings me back to AT. In shows like this, or others such as Vampire Diaries–which spawned from a 1990’s teen book series only to take on a life of its own all together–and the follow up The Originals (I used to watch VD but don’t any more and I have never seen the second series) I have to wonder if the characters do their own thing in the heads of their writers the way mine do. Honestly, from my experience I would have to say they do. This is where fan-fiction comes from, when characters are so real other people know their dreams and aspirations enough to write them in completely different scenarios.

Someday, I hope Annan and the people in her world are alive enough to infect the minds of my readers. It is my dream people will fan-fic my work far in the future and cry out for more, or for blood when their favorite dies or is emotionally devastated. As a writer who has these people in her head every day, playing out their lives in full vivid detail, I can assure you if Annan’s stories were to make it to that level you would see one crazy woman dancing in the streets of Seattle…of course that in itself is not an unusual thing so, oh well. lol

Laters all and go watch that favorite show you thought of when you read this, you know what I’m talking about 😉

~RF