This goes for both readers and authors.
Once upon a time, I was sad to leave a certain, s[c]ullen vampire behind (but okay to close the book on his whiny human girlfriend). Then it was Katniss and Peeta (and their not-so-happily-ever-after still haunts me). Ky, Xander and Cassia were also toughies for me. I’ve had to say goodbye to many characters I grew to love… people I only knew for a few days, at most.
As an author, though, it’s a million times harder to leave behind the characters you create. I have a ritual: when I near the end of a book, I buy myself a piece of jewelry that symbolizes a character. In October of 2009, on the eve of my first NaNoWriMo, I knew I’d have to start a new book and needed to wrap up Emi Lost & Found. The end was near, and the event hung over me like a dark cloud. I went to a Texas-based jewelry store and bought three remembrance rings: one with a Citrine stone for Nate; a Peridot stone for Emi; and an Aquamarine one for Jack. I had each of them engraved with their names. This helped me to finish the book, knowing I’d have a little piece of them with me always.
In 2010, I added a little dangle remembrance ring for one more character that I couldn’t leave behind: Livvy. Hers is Pink Tourmaline. This was before I’d even begun her story, but as a character, she stuck with me. I thought I’d have to leave her behind in Never Look Back, but over the course of a few months, I saw a story unfold for her. I began writing it in November 2011 and I’m happy to say my first draft was completed last weekend. Since I had already bought her ring, I had to get one for a different character, Jon. For him, I bought a White Sapphire dangle ring, and his ring and Livvy’s share the same pinkie finger. It’s good, because– so far in their story– they belong together, and the thought of leaving either behind wasn’t something I could do.
I wear all of the rings nearly every day, and have my own little private smile when I look at them.