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Letting your characters go

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-sad-dog-image5373616 [1]I’ve checked the proofs of my new novel. The stack of pages is ready to bundle up and send back to my editor. I’ve had my last opportunity to make corrections, and I’ve made my final farewell to the characters – THE CALLER is the third and final book in the SHADOWFELL series. Seems like time for a celebratory glass of champagne, yes? But I don’t feel elated, I feel sad. Why is it so hard to say goodbye?

After seventeen novels, I should understand  the perils of getting too attached to the characters of a book or series. Twice in the past, the vagaries of the publishing world have forced me to end a series earlier than I originally intended, a painful experience for both writer and readers.

What makes the key players in this particular series – the quietly strong Neryn, the intense, morally conflicted Flint, the driven rebel Tali, not to speak of their supporting cast of uncanny folk – so special?

I’ve seen these characters through exhilarating highs and desperate lows. Triumph and disaster; hope and heartbreak. I’ve put hours of thought, hard work and dedication into creating them. I’ve walked a very long way in their shoes. But, of course, it’s not just these characters, it’s the cast of every book I write. Every time, it’s hard to let go. Chances are all of you who write fiction feel exactly the same when you complete a project.

What can we do to ease the pain of parting?

Start the next story
Get going quickly on your next project and get to know your new characters. They will quickly work their way as close to your heart/mind/spirit as the old ones did. If the new characters are in dramatic contrast with the old ones,  so much the better! My new project features a pair of central characters quite unlike any I have written before and I love them already. I was already working on the new series while proof-reading THE CALLER, and it did help.

Give your favourites a new lease on life
If your readers loved those characters as much as you did, you could go back to them in short stories or a novella. I filled in a missing thread of family history from my six-book Sevenwaters series with a novella. Since ebooks allow the stand-alone publication of quite short works, this is more feasible than ever. You could provide these as exclusive downloads from your author website.

Spin-off series
Is there a secondary character in your series who’s itching to be the main protagonist of a different project? There might be a whole new creative venture just waiting to be born.

Prequel or sequel
Perhaps your story isn’t really finished? Could your trilogy become a four book series? Might there be scope for a prequel?

Pay due respect to your achievement and move on
Sometimes it really is time to move on. Send off the proofs and put the whole thing out of your mind for a while. Do something else. By the time the book appears on the shelves at your local retailer, or on the website of an online store, you will have completely forgotten what you were feeling so sad about.

Please note: your characters are not Gone For Ever when the manuscript is finished. Because of  your creative efforts they live on, not only in your imagination, but in that of everyone who reads your book. If that’s not something to celebrate, it should be!

Does finishing a project make you feel sad? How do you deal with it?

Photo credit:
© Jolita Marcinkene [2] | Dreamstime.com [3]


About Juliet Marillier [4]

Juliet Marillier [5] has written twenty-two novels for adults and young adults as well as a collection of short fiction. Her works of historical fantasy have been published around the world and have won numerous awards. Juliet is currently working on a fantasy trilogy for adult readers, Warrior Bards, of which the second book, A Dance with Fate, will be published in September 2020. She has a collection of short stories, Mother Thorn, coming out in late 2020 from Serenity Press, with illustrations by Kathleen Jennings. When not writing, Juliet is kept busy by her small tribe of elderly rescue dogs.