It’s pretty clear that writers have a strong influence on our characters. We make them who they are. They are nothing without us. Until we publish a story with them in it, anyway, and then they make a break for it.
The thing that surprises me (one of the things) is how our characters can influence us. Bridget, for example, a character in The Sisterhood novels. She is not much like me. She’s the least like me of the four main characters. (Readers always seem to love her the most.) I realize that since I’ve started writing about Bee, she has inspired me. She inspires me to do more and think less. To worry less. She’s not afraid of how people see her or how things seem. She’s a runner. When I first wrote about her I was not a runner. I had developed a strong dislike of running in fifth grade when we had to run an 8-minute mile for the Presidential Fitness test. But I realized I loved running with Bee–running toward things, running away from things. I realized what a release it was for her. As I attempted to occupy her mind as her writer, I felt it too.
Soon after I wrote the Second Summer, in which Bee does some truly cathartic running, I started running myself. It was pretty miserable at first. I’d run half a mile and feel exhausted. “You’re not running far enough,” a friend told me. That, weirdly enough, turned out to be true. Two miles felt better than one mile. Soon three miles felt better than two. When I described Bee running seven or eight miles in under an hour, I thought it was nearly superhuman. Now I can do that, and it feels pretty ordinary. And though I feel like I know Bee better now, she’s become less mysterious. Maybe she was always in there somewhere.