Authors are like parents to their characters? Well, maybe. In the sense that the characters wouldn’t exist without the author, and children wouldn’t exist without their parents. But the dynamic is so dysfunctional that even cold-blooded abusers would wince.
I set fire to my characters. I kill off their friends. I turn them into stone or destroy their livelihoods or pervert everything they have known and loved. If I’m stuck for a plot point, I find a new way to screw things up for my protagonist and see where this takes her. I find a perverse glee in finding a character’s breaking point and then jumping up and down on it while chanting “it’ll all work out in the end!”
I’m given to understand that parents do not, in general, do this to their children.
Now, I do love my characters, and I care about what happens to them. But it’s not a love that wants to spare them pain, or even bind up their wounds and make them oatmeal afterwards. It’s a love that wants to see them dance and dance well for my amusement — if they are in good shape for the dancing, so much the better.
In short, I am not much of a parent to my characters. I am, instead, like unto a GOD. And not one of the nice ones, either. I demand sacrifices of emotional resonance and character development! I will smite thee with plot hooks and plot twists, and the weeping and the gnashing of teeth will be mighty but not to exceed the space I have allotted for it in chapter fourteen! I will excise characters from the narrative the minute they become unnecessary and consign them to the outer darkness of unrevised drafts! I will…
…uh…I will stop getting so worked up on a Sunday afternoon.