My best friend and I have always written. We've known each other and have shared our stories for over thirty years. We have lived on opposite sides of the country for almost two thirds of that time, and of course become different people than we were as kids. We've had different lives, but writing has always been the constant.
She asked me, a while ago if she could use a character of mine in a new story she was writing. She would change his name, and the setting, of course, but she wanted to know if it was alright with me if he made an appearance.
I didn't know what to say. I was more than happy to let her have him. I wasn't doing anything with him, that was for sure. When she began to talk about what role he would play in this new story of hers, I was hit with a wave of uncertainty, as though I was falling back into who I was all those years ago. I was jealous of her new idea, of the writer she was. I felt awful. She had improved her writing so much since then, why was I still struggling with every word?
I wanted to protect what was mine, but I also wanted to let him go. I wanted to see what she did with him. Of the two of us, I had more faith in her than I did in me, to complete the story.
So I gave up my seventeen year old self who felt inferior, and angry about being inferior. That was the first thing, and it wasn't easy. Then I decided to try to be as much help as I could. Not only because she is my best friend, but because I knew I would learn things along the way.
She did finish the book, and my character, who is a relatively minor one, is also one of the heroes. He comes across as a guy who is just doing the best he can while trying to stay as deceit as he can. He's perfect, but he's also not mine anymore. He's one facet of my character, as seen through her eyes, so reading him was so much more fun than I ever expected.
There was another unexpected bonus. She got me thinking about those stories we wrote back then. I decided it might be time for me to start telling my version. I could write that character from the present, with all the things I've learned since we were kids added in. I haven't stayed in the same place, I've moved forward, I've just moved differently. I wanted a story that reflected that, even if only to myself.
The result is the novel I'm working on now, called “The Night Was Not.” It's a neo-Victorian story. This incarnation of the character is called Kerry Hazard. He flies an airship, and is called back to the city of his childhood by an ominous message from a friend. It's a very different story from my friend's novel, which is a space opera (yay!), but the character came from the same place. He was born in the back of a notebook, scribbled in while lying on either of our bedroom floors in the middle of the night. It's where he would have stayed if she hadn't picked him up again.