Recently I went to my 36th year high school reunion. Yeah, 36 years. Holy cow. The big reason I decided to go was because one of my friends who I hadn’t seen in 24 years was flying in from Florida. Although the idea of crowds combined with small talk makes me woozy, I knew this was one of the last times the group of us might be together. I am only in my in my fifties, but my mother died in her fifties. I am acutely aware of time slipping away. My heart would not let me stay away.The rest of my close friends from high school and I did a pretty good job staying in touch, however, we have not all been together at the same time.
The amazing thing about getting together with everyone from high school was the feeling that we were never apart. It was as if we hadn’t missed a beat. While time and life had changed for us, at the core we are still the same. The things that made us click as children and teens drew us together again. We laughed until we could barely breathe. We are older, yet we are still the same. We were transported back to a time when we felt we could do anything and we were with the ones who made us feel that way. While we talked, one of us said that it is so terrific to be with the ones who know our stories-the ones we have no need to explain anything to. We get each other. We lived through our childhood, teens and twenties together. We know the forces that made us who we are-the good the bad and the very, very ugly. Now, hold that thought.
A week before the reunion, I had one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had as an author. I participated in an author panel discussion at a local library. There were a series of questions that dealt with the writing process and the development of our characters. It was fascinating to me to listen to other authors discuss how they write and where their ideas come from. We all talked about the need for our characters to ring true and be engaging. We shared how our characters developed from the time we first conceived them to where they are now.
As I ponder both experiences, I see a link. How well do you know your characters? You are their creator. You make them who they are. Do you know their backstory? Do you know what makes them tick? Why are they the way they are? Are there things they still need to explain to you? If you had the chance to spend an evening with them, what would you talk about? Would your evening be more small talk or heart-to-heart? I believe that answering these questions will make me a better writer. What about you?