One of my favorite YA authors, Brian James, recently posted about the "grieving period" that takes place after finishing a book. "After months of a character's voice living with you, as a kind of ghost speaking through you, it suddenly goes silent."
As a reader, I find myself turning pages more slowly. I want to stay up all night (like I did as a little kid, hiding under the covers with my color-changing Playskool flashlight). At the same time, I don't want the story to end. If it's a good book, you might wonder, "What are these people doing now?"
Reading is a lot like writing. You've created a world...and you're the only one who sees it...exactly...like...that. Not only what the characters say, but also the sound of their voices. Not just what they look like, but their mannerisms, too. If the writer has done their job, they've left enough space for you to doodle on the same canvas.
I love spending time inside my head. When I type the last sentence in a story, I always feel like I'm abandoning a friend. Still, I know that the world I've created isn't mine alone. It belongs to everybody who reads it.
At the SCBWI conference in Orlando last weekend, I drifted through the Coranado ballroom, where scores of aspiring novelists sat on the carpet. They wore plastic nametags and the same hopeful smile. I overheard someone talking about the protagonist of their YA novel--"a girl who goes on a trip to find herself."
"For a second, I thought you were talking about a real person," said the woman behind us.
I laughed. "Don't you get it? She is real."
And it's true.
Every story is real.
Every character is a living thing.
First it starts with a "ghost."
Then we give it a voice.