Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Writer's Life: Saying Goodbye to Characters You Love

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

It’s been a weird month in my head. 


Because I’m saying goodbye to characters who have held the top spot in my brain for years. And I’m saying hello to entirely new characters who are just starting to form in my mind. 

Last month, I turned in the final book of my Defend and Protect series. That particular story world lays claim to three novels, three novellas, and over three years of my life. 

It feels a lot like it did when we moved away from a town we’d lived in for three years. We knew when we moved that we would someday have to say goodbye to the friends we made, the restaurants we enjoyed, the house we’d made our own. But even knowing that day would come, it didn’t make it any easier to drive away. 

I moved several times as a kid, so my adult brain already knew what would happen in our new home. For a while, it would be strange. I’d have to look up directions to get anywhere. I’d have to learn my way around, find a new favorite grocery store, discover new restaurants, and visit new churches. I’d have to figure out new TV channels and change the presets in my car to new radio stations.

And I’d make new friends. 

Y’all. Making new friends? I don’t know how that goes for you, but for me? That’s hard. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. Because the new people at work, church, school, the gym, the neighborhood—they were all perfectly lovely.

But they were strangers. I didn’t know anything about them. I had to memorize their names, remember who was married to who, which kids went with which parents, who had a great marriage, who had been divorced three times, whose parents were amazing and who had in-laws out of a nightmare. 

None of that happened overnight. It took time for me to remember who had what job, which college they’d gone to, if they were sports fans or theater fans or movie fans. 

And it took even longer to uncover the parts of themselves that weren’t so obvious but that were important to who they were. The unhappy childhoods, the miscarriages, the work stress, the abuse, the addictions, the dreams unfulfilled, and the fears that kept them up at night. 

Which is why my brain is a very strange place right now. Because finishing a series and starting a new one is so much like moving to a new town.

Part of me is sad. It’s hard to say goodbye to friends—even when those friends are fictional characters that I made up and then put through all sorts of drama. Come to think of it, those friends might be happy to see me go! I imagine them thinking, “Finally we can get some peace around here!” 

The other part of me is cautiously optimistic. I’ve done this before. I know I won’t feel comfortable here for a while, but I know it will happen eventually.

My new characters have names, for the most part. Not that I can remember all of them yet. They have professions, although a few of them have changed rather dramatically over the past few weeks.

As I’ve given these new people residence in my mind, they’ve started to reveal themselves. I’m learning what makes them tick—who has a soft spot for kids, who has never met an animal they didn’t want to take home with them, and who has zero tolerance for bullies. 

There’s a restaurant in my new town that is beloved by the locals. There’s a church that has some serious issues because Christians aren’t always Christ-like. There’s a creek that acts as a property line that’s going to be very important. And the other day I discovered a rail-to-trail bike path that has driven tourists to the area, much to the dismay of some of the locals, and the delight of others. 

Even though I know it’s temporary, I think I’m going to like my new creative home. And in a few years when I have to say goodbye, I’ll be both sad and cautiously optimistic, because as scary as it is to make new friends, it’s so worth it. 

So how about you? Have you created a new world? What did it feel like? How did you manage the transition? 

And if you’re a nonfiction writer—it’s okay to be a little freaked out about how I described this. I told you my brain was a weird place! 

Grace and peace,


Lynn H. Blackburn loves writing romantic suspense because her childhood fantasy was to become a spy, but her grown-up reality is that she's a huge chicken and would have been caught on her first mission. She prefers to live vicariously through her characters and loves putting them into all kinds of terrifying situations while she's sitting at home safe and sound in her pajamas! 

Unknown Threat, the first book in her Defend and Protect series, was a 2021 Christy Award finalist and her previous titles have won the Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Faith, Hope, and Love Reader’s Choice Award. Malicious Intent, the second book in the series, released March 2022.

She is a frequent conference speaker and has taught writers all over the country. Lynn lives in South Carolina with her true love and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after by signing up for her newsletter at LYNNHBLACKBURN.COM and @LynnHBlackburn on BOOKBUB, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.

Featured Image: Photo by Daoudi Aissa on Unsplash

1 comment:

  1. A real sad event is when a character you love dies in the novel. That's a real hard saying goodbye moment.