I have recently been informed by my dear proof reader that, while she was enjoying reading through The Fairy Godfather, she hasn’t yet finished reading it. With any normal person this would not bat an eye lid but this woman devours books in a similar manner to how I devour marshmallows. Alas the poor dear felt the need to stop and take a break due to the emotional distress of too many people dying off (some times really unpleasantly).
It sounds mean but I like it in books (and films, TV programs, and so on) when bad things happen. It makes the presented stakes of the game seem real. There’s no invisible safety net to stop bad things from happening just because it isn’t nice. You sit there reading whilst thinking “Oh yes, they’re technically risking their lives but they aren’t actually going to die” and all of a sudden someone is completely, horrifically and irreversibly dead. Oh. Right. This author isn’t messing around. Their characters are in danger. The stakes are real. And suddenly, I’m a whole lot more invested in the story.
Now, when I was informed that my friend needed ‘a break’ my first thinking was something along the lines of “oh crap, this is so distressing it’s unreadable – I’ve clearly gone overboard!” Though it occurred to me shortly afterwards (and a friendly Twitter face also voiced the same opinion) that yeah, sure, I may have left my best friend curled up in the corner but she actually cares about my characters enough to feel bad about all the horrible things I do to them! This brought back a bit of confidence in my story. It gave my characters a certain validation that someone telling me they liked them just didn’t give. People can always say they like a particular character but being pushed to feeling an emotional response by them is something different. It is real. That is when they cease to be a collection of words on a page but an actual character.
I can’t help but feel a little proud. My babies are all growing up. Yes, my dear characters, I do love you. Though I hate to say it, there’s still one more book left in the trilogy for you. Let the torture continue!