Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Have You Ever Met a Story World Character? by Ruth Ann Dell

We often hear about the importance of a writer belonging to a critique group. Over six years ago, ICFW's Shirley Corder founded a non-fiction group called Truth Talk. I had the privilege of being one of the five initial members. Shirl and I lived in South Africa, but our homes were two days' drive apart. Jan and Yvonne were on opposite sides of America while Elaine lived in a small English village.

None of us had broadband or Skype in those days, but strong bonds of friendship developed among us as Truth Talk emails flew to and from our computers. We honed our writing skills, prayed together and became a close-knit unit supporting each other in our daily lives.

After several years I visited England with my husband and younger daughter. Elaine's village was one of the proposed places on our itinerary as a much loved aunt also lived there. I asked Elaine for her phone number and we planned to meet if at all possible.

I called Elaine from my aunt's house. I waited for her to pick up the phone and my anticipation grew as I imagined a flurry of excited squeals of joy and laughter as we spoke to each other for the first time.

Elaine answered my call and I said, "Hello, Elaine, this is Ruth speaking."

There was no response.


"Hello, Elaine. Are you there?"

Still no response.

I was about to put the phone down when she spoke to me in a rather vague manner. I was nonplussed by her initial lack of reaction, but as we chatted the words came tumbling out. Elaine gave me directions to her house and later I visited her. It was so good to meet her at long last and give her a big hug.

Later I discovered the reason for Elaine's stunned silence. She had been totally immersed in the story world of the book she was writing. As she wrestled with a dilemma involving one of her key characters, who happened to be called Ruth, her phone rang. When she answered the call she was startled to hear a voice saying, "Hello, Elaine, this is Ruth speaking." Her first reaction was that her character had  phoned to give her side of the story!

We often laugh about this incident, but it gives an insight as to how characters become real people to their creators.

Has there ever been a time when your characters have come to life? This could be from a book you're reading or writing. If so, please leave a comment and tell us about it.

Ruth Ann Dell writes children's stories and international Christian fiction from her home in a sunny South African suburb. She is a member of several writing groups including the American Christian Fiction Writers and Writer's Ink. Her desire is to craft gripping stories which draw her readers into a closer relationship with God.

Ruth Ann and her husband have lived in several countries and are renovating a cottage in the heart of Ireland.


  1. I love this story!

    I've not had this sort of thing happen--yet. The closest I come is my bad habit of referring to characters (especially my own) as if they are real. Something along the lines of, "Well, Ritter's the sort who doesn't mind looking stupid. I suppose as long as he knows better, he doesn't sweat it." My family is used to this eccentricity by now, but I do occasional receive askance looks from others to add to my collection.

  2. Glad your real life experience was as good as your imagined one, Ruth. Sometimes visiting a place you've read about destroys the fantasy created by the book. For example, Bath in the twenty-first century, is nothing like the city of Georgette Heyer's romances. Sometimes it's better just to imagine : )

  3. Oh yes, Ruth. That was so funny! I remember hearing the story from both you and Elaine.
    I've never had a character phone me, but I remember the first time a character talked back to me. I was busy with my first novel.
    The twins' mother told them to take their baby brother for a walk round the block. I was writing about their behavior, when I saw them notice a park which I didn't know was there. (I was only the author, what did I know?)
    I tried to keep them walking but no way. They went into the park despite my intentions, and the story veered in a different direction as a result.
    I've had that happen to me a number of times since, but I found that first time so exciting. The twins truly had taken on a life of their own.
    Isn't writing fun? (Sometimes!)

  4. What a fun story, Ruth.
    After I had finished writing my first novel, I missed my characters so much. The solution to the empty space ... write the sequel :)

  5. Ruth, LOL at your story with Elaine. Like Marion, I miss my characters when I finish writing their story. Thanks for sharing with us today :-)

  6. That's hysterical, Ruth! At one point it was all I could do to resist sharing "prayer requests" for my character's problems.