When I talk about her to people, sometimes they think it sounds like an eccentric weirdo running her mouth, or a crackpot, or someone trying to sound like writing is more special than it is. I've heard people say that it's mentally disturbed behavior to "invent" a character and then act like the character does anything without the author's consent. Okay, once Ivy flipped me off. (All right, so she was flipping God off in response to her current situation, but same thing, since I put her in it.) I didn't plan that. She just does things. And even though my mother "made" me and put me in the world, I'd say I've done a few things she didn't want me to do. Well-made characters have such full personalities that they DO appear to have free will.
I thought maybe I was just being a weirdo, but something cheered me recently. My favorite author in the world, Joan D. Vinge, has a character I adore named Cat. I bought an anniversary edition of the book, and in her introduction, she says this about him: "This may sound peculiar (or even pathological) to people who aren't writers; but the characters who live in the virtual reality of an author's mind become very real. The writer may be playing God, but the characters still have free will. They stand up and yell, 'You can't make me do that!' in your brain, or take an instant unplanned dislike to another character, or step into a scene for a moment and wind up taking over the story." (All of those things have happened to me with Ivy, by the way.) She continued: "Cat is, to me, far more than the sum of his parts, and always will be. How long it will take me to finish telling the story of his life, I don't know. I only know that I wouldn't mind us growing old together."
Later I read Stephen King's book On Writing, and was pleased to find out that he writes books like I do. No, not full of blood and guts; mine have a minimum of violence (unless Miss Ivy has lost her temper, but even then there's never blood--well, let me amend that, there is RARELY blood). King uses a strange metaphor of the writing subject being like an archaeological dig site; a writer can decide where to "dig" and might have some idea of what will be unearthed, but there is no clear picture without the dig actually taking place, and sometimes you'll find things you totally didn't expect. Also, your writing ability is your toolbox: You can dig it up with a bulldozer or a toothbrush, and maybe one way gets the story out fast but I'd say a trowel and a little paintbrush are best; you don't damage anything and you find everything. Even little details that make you love a character or plot come out intact.
I love it that I created Ivy. Deciding to write her books was one of the greatest things I ever did. Okay, so she distracts me, takes up too much of my time, pisses me off and freaks me out now and then, but man, the experience of writing a very real character like this is beyond description. Ivy has this strange friend named Nicholas and at one point they'd been discussing the nature of God, so it was on her mind that day. Then she went and made a sort of wind storm--yeah, Ivy can make winds with her energy, it's kind of her art form--and she had a really good time doing it then, it was just an ethereal experience. And when she was finished with it, she thought about God again, and she decided that if there was a being who was responsible for her existence, she just wanted to thank it for letting her have that experience. She said "thank you" to me, and maybe it sounds weird but I cried for an hour.
This year, in celebration of the existence of Ivy, I got a cake. I've been celebrating her "birthday" the last few years, actually, and a few times people have actually gotten me gifts, sort of like a private joke between us. (My friend Mike got me a hairstyle book last year, 'cause Ivy and I both like braids.) So this is my little tribute to her, to announce to the world that I'm happy to have her and that I'm always in some way working on her story (even though the little bad fairy currently has me distracted; no, Delia will never be Ivy).
Happy birthday, silly girl.
Happy anniversary, me.
I've invented characters and talked about them/thought about them so much over the past 5 years that they've become as real as anything else in my mind.
HEy cutie, tell Ivy I said happy B-day, and happy anniversary to you. I wish I could've been a bigger part, but I've always been a fan.
Please tell Miss Ivy that I said hello and Happy Birthday! :)
Happy birthday, Ivy(s). :)
Happy Birthday...late, but touching nevertheless.
I love reading about your writing life. :) I've read that essay on your writing "timeline" ten times. I'm really, really impressed with you and your stories. I pretty sure I sound like suck-up little prat, mostly because I have little experience with writing but you are awesome :) Happy Birthday Ivy! [katqueen]