Sarah J. Carlson

Contemporary Young Adult Author

Non-writers just don’t understand: Missing imaginary people


missing characters

So I just spent the past five months majorly re-writing my manuscript, per the amazingly comprehensive feedback from my awesome agent. I re-wrote the entire first 2/3s of it. After it’s been re-written so many times already. I’ve lost count of how many different chapter ones I’ve had.

It was grueling, but I cannot find the appropriate words to express how proud I am of the outcome…which is kind of bad, seeing as I’m a writer. I think (hope!) it’s finally there. Anyway, I sent my agent the shiny, vastly-improved new manuscript four days ago!


And now I’ll be waiting awhile for feedback. I feel like there’s this gaping hole in my life. Like, what do I do with myself now that I’m not brainstorming, writing, enhancing setting, re-reading, and editing Hooligans? Oh, and slashing word count. And…I miss my characters. Already. I love them all for different reasons.


I’ve spent so, so much time with these characters over the past two years. To really capture them, I’ve had to live inside their heads. Experience their past, present, and futures through their eyes. Imagine their reactions to things as massive as losing a parent to as mundane as hearing certain songs. Not going to lie, it’s made worse by the fact that one of the MCs is my most favorite character I’ve ever written of all time. And for this particular story, I don’t think a sequel’s appropriate.

Missing imaginary people…sounds a bit strange. Not normal. But really it’s because our writerly brains operate on a different plane of existence, right?

*sigh* Guess I’ll get to work on all the critiquing I’ve fallen behind on. Oh, and that other MS I’ve got going.

Writer friends, do you find yourself missing your characters when you set a manuscript aside?

13 thoughts on “Non-writers just don’t understand: Missing imaginary people

  1. phantomwriter143

    When I first set a manuscript aside after a long and arduous rewrite, I actually never want to look at it again. Then, after a couple weeks, I start to miss it and want to go back, though I know taking a break from it while waiting for feedback allows me fresh eyes to view it again later. Sometimes I want to chuck it out the window, but, of course, I never do, and I fall in love with the story and the characters all over again.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Yes. This. All of this. So I don’t miss the MS. God no. Like I never want to open the file again. At least for a few weeks 😛 But I miss my characters. Just not the plot, I think. That’s what it is! It’s the plot I’m sick of. And line editing… haha.


      1. phantomwriter143

        Gah! Line editing can kiss my grits. (I’m not from the South by the way. I just like the phrase). 🙂 And while I do miss my characters, some of them I could just smack upside the head for what they do and how they get into trouble and such. So while I write curious, courageous characters, I actually adore the quiet ones who play it safe. Because that’s what I would do. Haha!


      2. sjoycarlson Post author

        Haha I know, right? Those frustrating characters who never do what we want or do what’s safe 😛 Hmm… do I adore my characters that are more like me??? Well I think in this particular MS there isn’t really one too much like me. The character I love is not at all like me, but I love him because he’s got so much to overcome and does try, but he’s naïve and chavvy but sweet on the inside and under a lot of pressure. Maybe I love him cuz I make him suffer SO much and even still his spirit isn’t totally crushed. Now my other MS has a more “me” character in it… Well me with a bit more spunk…. 😛


      3. phantomwriter143

        Yes, I put myself into some of my characters, but I’m naturally an introvert at heart and NOT a risk-taker, so even though my characters have to take risks to further the story, it always drives me insane!!!


  2. Jon Chaisson

    I’m actually writing a new story in the same universe as the trilogy I’m about to (finally) release upon the world. It takes place seventy years later, and though I tried not to bring these characters back, they snuck back of their own volition. It’s actually kind of fun writing a story where I can have the new characters suffer the “why can’t you be more like [old character]?” as a legit subplot!
    The sad thing is, I love my Bridgetown characters (and the created world) so much that I’m contemplating going the anime route and giving the original gang canon side stories. :p


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Haha love it! And I bet readers will love it, too. Seeing beloved former characters all grown and elderly, interacting with the new ones. Sounds like your universe leaves you lots of room to play, which is awesome!


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      It’s probably like having imaginary friends as kids, right? Apparently when I was a kid, I didn’t have one steady imaginary friend, I just made up people and played with them for each story I wanted to act out. I did have siblings and real life friends, but I made up whatever people I wanted (and they did what I said, mostly :P)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Terry Nelson

    As a writer I know the feeling, which is why I took my lead characters from my first novel and put them in another story, and why they are now in a work in progress third story. I love these two. Best of luck to you and your characters.


    1. sjoycarlson Post author

      Aw, I wish I could do that with mine, but I don’t think it would work 😥 At least I don’t think it would be necessarily a publishable story that had the same feel as the first. Best of luck to you and your characters as well! Happy writing 🙂


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