In second or third grade L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables became my favorite book. I had another little friend who loved the book (and the sequels) too and decided it would be wonderful, now that I was moving, to write to each other using Montgomery pseudonyms. She said she would write me, signing her name as Anne, and I should write back, signing mine as Diana. I was a bit indignant. I wanted to be Anne. I was more like Anne, I thought. And as it turns out, decades later, I WAS more like Anne. My friend got married early in life, had a bunch of kids right away, and didn’t pick up writing or college or anything like I did.
So did that give me higher claim over the character? (Let’s just pretend the question is rhetorical and I’ll answer it myself, okay?) The answer: No. No. Absolutely not.
Books we love, authors we like, they create characters that have a universal identity. We may not be anything like the beloved character, but we relate with them. We love them—we find anything we can to put us in their places (even if it’s only subconscious). It doesn’t matter how many other people attach themselves to the character, we all love them uniquely and individually—sometimes for other reasons than our associates. Either way, the characters’ voices become enduring in our lives and, particularly as children, help shape who we are. Well developed characters are powerful forces.
And one day I hope I can write a character that can become as good a friend to a child as Anne was to me.