As St. Valentine’s Day approaches, what better time is there to talk about love, right?  

I’m not talking about just any kind of love:  love between a man and a woman, a woman and her child or even a man and his dog.  Instead, I’m talking about a love that is a lot harder for non-writers to understand.  It’s a romance that can only be shared between author and his/her character.  

Take for example, my character, Julien Roulet.  I know him better than anyone and because of this, I am utterly and completely in love with him.  Julien looks and acts nothing like my own husband in real life and that’s part of the fun.  However, he is a rough composite of all of the French men that I have known over the last five years while living and working Paris.  He is an elusive lover; distant and slightly mysterious.  Tall and slim with brown hair and sparkling green eyes, he’s handsome, intelligent, creative, quick witted and tad bit irreverent.  A French man who refuses to pronounce the letter “h” when speaking in English, he’s also married and a devoted family man.  He’s far from perfect though – an insecure, rakish, adulterer in fact.  And yet at the same time, he’s a good guy who is still deeply in love with his wife. Unfortunately, he now finds himself in an impossible situation and saving him remains my toughest challenge.  Oh, the complexity! 

So exactly when do we find time to rendezvous, you ask?  It usually starts in my dreams at night.  His thoughts come to me in hushed tones,  preventing  me from getting a good night’s sleep.  When he signals to me that he needs to talk urgently, I wake up, crack open my laptop and type the sweet words he needs to convey .  Our relationship heightens as we communicate – author to character via the dialogue.  He tells me everything that people around him need to know and I happily dictate his demands.  Then, like all other love affairs, the relationship fizzles once there is nothing left to write.

As authors we experience a whole host of emotions while creating characters.  Just like in real life, we take up their hobbies, research their professions, record their fickle likes and dislikes, all in an attempt to better understand them.  When all is going well between us, we can’t wait to visit them in their imaginary world each day.   One minute we’re laughing at all of their jokes and the things that they do.  And the next, we’re infuriated and downright embarrassed by their behavior.  We know when they’re happy, sad, or frustrated.  When they long for another character, sometimes we get jealous.  When they abandon us because they yearn for independence and space,  we become fearful because we never know which direction they will take our story.  Finally, we’re downright depressed when we have to leave them because their story has come to an end. 

The point to all of this is this.  Creating characters for which there is genuine affection is what makes writing fun and rewarding. Whenever we are able to achieve that level of love for our character, our readers are the true beneficiaries.  If we’re really lucky, the reader will fall in love with the character as well.  And the best part for me?  Whenever I want to spend time with the number one man in my fictional world, I have my husband’s blessing.  If you ask me, this is the best type of ménage à trois there is. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  And remember if you can’t spend the day with a loved one, then fall in love with a good book!