It happens to us all…
We fall in love with a character. Maybe it’s not the main character. Maybe you don’t even like the book. But for some reason, you want him, or her, or it, back again, even if you have to put up with people, places, and things you’d rather never experience again. “Love” might not be the exact feeling you have for that character, even. It’s possible to feel that way about some villains, like, for instance, the mayor of Sunnydale in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
That’s probably why I kept reading Game of Thrones. Martin doesn’t really have one main character, and just when you think you hate one completely, there’s a total turnaround in the character. So when the characters start dropping like flies, there’s always another connected story to entangle you. My son heard a comment about Martin killing off all his characters and said, “Oh, does he write The Walking Dead? My friend says everyone on The Walking Dead dies, too” (a second grader watching The Walking Dead is mind-bending to me, but that’s another soapbox).
I like good world building and good genre fiction that plans to explore the nooks and crannies of an imagined world or universe (the Liaden universe created by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, for instance, or the Dark Tower books by Stephen King). It’s easier to excuse a less-than-successful story, when there are many others to fill things out (I find this to be true of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books, for instance). But sometimes there is not as much chance that you’ll run across the same characters regularly, and when they’re gone, you can’t necessarily expect them to reappear in the next book. And then you miss them.
I would say that right now it’s more likely now to find a series with one main character who narrates the story (in romance or in YA fiction you often find alternating points of view, but from a core of main characters) and, frankly, sometimes the main character, or the one who is supposed to be most sympathetic, is the one you wish weren’t there. In Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves, the characters I loved were Calla and Persephone, who have very minor roles in the book. In Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series, I keep reading partly because I love Jenks and Matalina, and want to find out what will happen with David and Ceri. Rachel’s mother is also a fantastic character. I want to know what happens with them. Rachel, the point of view character? Her, I could live without.
When a character you love, or love to hate, disappears from the story, or the series, or your life, of course you miss him, or her. When the story’s done, and you loved the world it was in, it’s hard to return to your daily life. That character is still there in the pages you turned, in the imagined world the author created, unforgettable. As hard as it is to tear myself away, I know I can always return… but it will be time to put my kids to bed before I know it, and someday soon, even though the characters I loved on the page will still be there, the ones in my life will change, and I’ll never get this day back.
What worlds do you visit? What characters do you miss?