Off on another part of Teh Intertubes, a colleague is writing the last book of a series, and is experiencing separation grief.
During our interview at ConQuesT, I made the comment in reply to. . .something, that readers and writers have a different relationship with the writer’s characters; with readers experiencing something like a traditional, real-world “friendship” with those characters they’ve come to like. The relationship between an author and her characters is more nearly collaborative, and while I do love my children, I don’t worry about them to the extent that some readers report.
Back at. . . Duckon, I think it was, a few years ago, I happened to overhear a young lady in the hallway between panels who was being congratulated by her colleagues for having made an author on a previous panel (on what I suppose was fan fic) break down and cry. “She had to be made to understand,” the young lady was saying, very sternly, “that she doesn’t own those characters just because she made them up. They belong to us, because we give them life!” (Yes, I did check. No, I didn’t start in with the young lady then and there. This is entirely due to the fact that Steve grabbed my arm and pulled me down the hall to our next event.)
All of these things, though, speak to the “reality” of fictional characters, and the hold they have over the minds and hearts of readers (and writers, too, if we do only make them up). My colleague who is wrapping up the series wonders what will happen to their beloved characters in the minds of readers, once their story is told; and if readers will also experience grief, knowing that this is the last book.
I have my own opinions on this (quelle surprise!), but I’d like to hear yours: How do you handle the ending of a series? What’s your relationship with — and your responsibilities toward — people who live in books?