Apologies all around... That's what I'd owe them. Long diatribes about how I regretted the pain and anguish I caused them...
Sincere explanations for why I snuffed their parents... Or robbed them 14 times at gunpoint... Or launched them into space without a decent pair of shoes... I'd be moved to deep professions about how I never planned to do it again.
Lies, all of them, of course. Because I'd do it again just the same in an eye-blink.
But they wouldn't need to know that, would they?
Still... Yesterday, as I laughed manically, plonking down yet another barrier to peace in my main character's way, I thought:
What if, as writers, we really did have to answer to the people we created, for the choices we made in their lives?
Why, one of my friends' heroes has been stuck on a Wild West desert plateau for years.
I think he'd have some interesting things to say about that.
"Ya murdered my family. You put my gal in jeopardy. Then you killed ma horse and left me on a narrow precipice with no food 'n water...
"Did you know about my inner ear problem? Did think about ma fear o' heights? Did you know I was allergic to prairie grass and gopher dander? Did you ever bother to ask me about that? Did ya? DID YA?!
"NAW! You were too busy gittin' all distracted with fact checkin' and Feelin' the Muse and creatin' historical credibility and atmosphere way th' hell back again in Chapter One! Chapter One, fer Pete's Sake! Them's is done in Chapter One, Lady! Find closure and let it go!
"So now, my equilibrium's been off for five years, my sinuses are a-killin' me and I've been balancing on a six-inch ledge while the buzzards peck my head. Goldurn it, woman-- git me offa this rock!"
I imagine there'd have to be a Bureau of Character Complaints to handle it all.
And I can see it now. There'd be a reception room just filled with impatient, surly and world-weary fictional characters. Some suffering from gunshot wounds. Some in mourning clothes. Some undead. Some just really pissed.
A little girl with a doll would step into the room.
Little Girl: "Hello. I'm Sara Crewe. I'd like to register a complaint. My father got amnesia in World War I and forgot all about me. So I was left penniless and forced to work as a servant girl in a cold attic and nearly died of mistreatment. Things worked out for the best at the end, but I would like to get an apology from Frances Hodgson Burnett for the middle of the book."
Receptionist: (sighing) "Sign in here and take a seat."
After a lot of rubber stamping of paperwork, the receptionist would finally stand up and announce to the collective before her:
Receptionist: "Okay-- in the interest of efficiency, we're going to break you into groups. Abused orphans over here...
(And half the cast from Dickens' books would move that direction, along with Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket's Baudelaire children, and young Miss Crewe)
Receptionist: "White hat cowboys over here... Misunderstood black hat cowboys over there...
"Native Americans treated as cannon fodder? Here are some towels and you follow Dr. Green, please...
"Characters with unsatisfying endings looking for rewrites, that room...
"If you committed murder and feel it was out of character, or you have a more believable alibi than your author gave you credit for, that room there..."
"Unless you're a Butler.... Then you need to go to Cliched Killers in room 12b...
"No, not you, Mr. Jeeves. You go to Overintelligent Servants Purposefully Stationed Far Below Their Capabilities Yet Illogically Content with Lack of Upward Mobility. Just follow those Shakespearean court jesters-- yes, they'll show you where to go."
Ah, yes. We would all have a lot to answer for, wouldn't we?
Do you know a character with a complaint-- or do you have a character who needs some closure? Send 'em along!