I have recently noticed a new word popping up in the YA galaxy. “Shipping.” Now, I realize this is not a new word, and, in fact, has been used for centuries. But…not in the same way. Maybe I am giving away my novice status here, but my best guess at a definition for this new form of “shipping” is wishing for characters in a book to get together. So if Bobby, Sally, and Jimmy are in a book, and you “ship” Sally and Jimmy, it means you want them in a relationship, and not Bobby and Sally (or Bobby and Jimmy, as the case may be).
I was reading through my Twitter feed one day and someone had asked an author if she “ships” her own characters. (I can’t stop putting it in quotes…talking about shipping people just doesn’t sound legal!) This author said that no, she doesn’t “ship” her own characters, because it’s a different sort of point of view when you are creating them. Since I was still caught up in trying to figure out why people were sending characters by mail, I kind of brushed off this answer until recently.
I was having a conversation yesterday with a friend who just finished my book. She read it in a day, and has already threatened my life if I don’t continue the series. After securing a restraining order, I was thinking about the reaction that my book has garnered among friends and family thus far. It has all been positive (friends and family are fabulous at being supportive!), but in many case emotionally so. These people are totally invested in these characters I have created. They want to see things work out, and they have a need to see what happens next. They talk about them as if they are real people…
…which is exactly what I was going for. My plan is complete! Now everyone else is as crazy as me, and we can talk about the characters that sprang forth from my brain meat and into my story as if they are real, because THEY ARE.
But seriously, I was talking to this friend, and I realized that people who have read my book have in some ways become even more invested in these characters than I am. No, that’s not exactly what I mean. I am invested, but I also have control. (Sort of. Characters can be wily.) So while they are stuck with whatever I choose to put on the page, I can visit with my characters whenever I please. Go hang out in a haloscape with Eden, or check in to see how Kalon is. They are belong to me. 😉
So, to make my point, I agree with that author. I don’t “ship” my own characters, because I create them, and I create their relation”ships” in the stories, even if it sometimes seems that they have a life of their own. But it makes me enormously happy when other people “ship” my characters, because it means I’ve made them believable enough for a reader to have an opinion one way or the other.
And it also means that I can really mess with them…