So, the other day I was procrastinating - I mean, researching - on the internet when I Googled - I mean, stumbled across - some personality tests. "Personalities," I said to myself. "That's like characters, and characters are novel gold." So, naturally, I decided to do some of them. For research purposes.
Most of the results were entirely foreseeable. I'm an INFP. I avoid conflict at any cost. I'm a loyal partner and friend. I'm Neville in Harry Potter. My Game of Thrones name is 'Lindsey "The Hangover" Little'. Obvious things like that.
But then I did a test, one element of which floored me. It was one of those tests that guides you through an imaginary journey, and whether you pick the perfect rose shows how you deal with temptation, and how you describe the horse in the field is what you look for in a partner, and so on. I was a little surprised to find out that my ideal partner has nostrils the size of table tennis balls and poos standing up, but that's not the part that flummoxed me.
It was the bit in the quiz where it said, 'Someone taps you on the shoulder. You look around and see it's someone you know. Who is it?' And at the end, it's revealed that the person who taps your shoulder is the person you trust most in all the world.
Well, the person who tapped me on the shoulder was James Munkers.
For those not in the know, James Munkers is the main character of my fantasy adventure novel for young adults. He's made up. By me. Not who the personality quiz people had in mind as a trustworthy acquaintance, I'll wager. I reckon they were thinking more of the person you'd give a spare key to your house to, or ring at the end of a rubbish day, or move a dead body with. I'm pretty sure I'll never do any of that with James.
My first reaction was to laugh, as I'd obviously got the answer wrong or, more agreeably, the quiz people had got the quiz wrong. Then I began thinking about it, and the more I thought about it, the more concerned I became.
What if James is the person I trust most in all the world? And what does that say about me?
First to deal with was the guilt. Why hadn't I chosen my husband as the most trusted person? Or my twin sister? Or my parents? I'd trust these people with my life. I tell them everything. Am I now telling them that I'd give trustworthy points to a fictional character over them? I'm an awful wife! I'm a terrible sister! I'm an appalling daughter!
I'm also a crazy person. Who trusts people who aren't there? A crazy person, that's who.
I didn't even attempt to deny, though, that I do trust James. I do, even if he is fictional and, frankly, a bit slow, awkward and cowardly. At least, I'm very comfortable with him. I know him backwards. I toyed with him for seven years, after all. And he knows all about me, like how long it takes me to get around to doing any work, and how rubbish that work can be when I finally do get around to it. He doesn't judge. He just sits there and waits for me to dump a fresh, steaming pile of plot on him so he can react to said plot and do everything I want him to, when I want it, and...
Hang on. Is that why I trust him? Because I have complete control over him, and he'll do anything I ask without question in a way my real-life besties will not? I'm worse than crazy; I'm a megalomaniac. I'm a despot. At best I'm the worst control-freak you could ever hope to avoid, and I should be locked up and never given control of anything more hazardous than some safety scissors. But I wants the power! I wants it, my preciousssss...
These disturbing thoughts occurred a few days ago. My subsequent panic has abated, but my feelings of trust in my main character have not, and I think I've worked out why.
It's because I don't have any control over him anymore - not now he's been published. He's grown up and moved away. He's out there on his own, and I can't follow every copy of him around like a creepy, over-protective mother driving around after her teenaged son the first time he heads off with his shiny new P-plates. My job bringing him up is done. I have to trust him now to sit patiently on shelves, catch a book browser's eye, show his best self to his readers, gain courage when they applaud him and take it on the chin when they don't.
And I have to learn to let go of the control I had over him for seven years.
Or I could write another three books in the series. Yeah, I think I'll do that.