If you’re a fiction writer, and have taken the time to dive deep into a character’s psyche, you may have experienced the mind-blowing- and sometimes terrifying- phenomenon of one of your characters actually coming to life. As in REALLY coming to life- not just in your novel, but in your house, plopped down in the middle of your living room, eating a bucket o’ bon bons.
FLASHBACK, 2008: Her name is Suzy, and she is REAL. And she’s enormous. She doesn’t talk much, but she loves to eat. She follows me every time I go to the grocery store. She fills my cart with junk food (her favorite). Then she follows me home, pigs out on Ho Hos and Ding Dongs, and sleeps for 12 hours.
Here’s the 4-step plan I developed to cope:
I mean, c’mon, you’re gonna do that anyway, so you may as well make it the first step. I panicked when Suzy came to life. Didn’t faze her, though, as she’s not much of a communicator. Now that you’ve gotten the prerequisite panicking out of the way . .
2. Don’t panic!
Just stop. Pretty self-explanatory. Without this step you’re pretty much at the mercy of your miraculously alive characters, and pretty much at the mercy of those people with the odd smiles, the white lab coats, and the “happy juice” syringes hidden behind their backs.
3. Question other people’s sanity, not your own.
As in, “You mean you don’t see a 400-lb. woman with clown makeup, bleach-blonde ringlets, and sparkly pink nail polish eating a bag of Cheetos in the middle of our living room? No? That’s weird. You might want to see a professional about your obviously compromised perception of reality.”
4. Laugh it off.
This last step pretty much is the perfect finish to most any faux crisis. Looking back, having Suzy come to life wasn’t as bad as I initially thought it was. She’s mostly harmless, and she’s always amusing. And she still visits me from time to time. (I know it’s not me who’s been eating all the bon bons.)
Have any real-live-character-coping experiences of your own?