Monday, January 30, 2012

Reading Feedback: Start me off caring

One of the things about writing is that it changes how you read. You start looking for things that other writers do that annoy you, or that you really like.

And I've discovered something with a recent book I picked up and put down: If the writer doesn't make me care right away, then I'm not going to keep reading.

Action alone doesn't get me into a story, and a lot of writers try to make it do so. But if the main character doesn't feel, there's nothing to draw me in, no matter how fancy the explosions are. Ever notice how horror movies with characters that die in the first five minutes, the movie spends the first four getting to know the characters? That way, when they die, their deaths mean something to the viewer. There's a connection.

So what are some things that help readers form emotional connections?

An emotional experience (but only real emotion.) A father-daughter moment. How about a little complaint about how much those chaps chafe, or how heavy that darn crown is? Or have the characters argue with each other over something petty, then regret it. Maybe a jealous moment, when the antagonist sees the protagonists happy together.

If all the characters are running for their lives, let them think about the things they never did. Or notice inconveniences that don't matter. Perhaps set the story in a familiar location.

All that really matters is that I can form an emotional connection. The character doesn't have to have anything in common with me to make me care about him. Some human experiences are universal. But if the writer throws me in so quickly that I can't find anything with which to identify, I'll put the book down. I need to start off caring to keep reading.

Take a moment - just a moment - and decide whether or not your own story gives the reader something to connect to. And if it doesn't, make a little time for your characters to feel.

Because part of getting people to read, is keeping them past the first few pages.

2 comments:

  1. I find that I also put down books when the caring doesn't kick in immediately. I'm a slow reader, so even if the premise is fascinating, I have to have a reason to care about what happens before I commit to the journey.

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  2. Hi,

    Apologies for the off-topic comment, but I couldn't find a contact email for you.

    I recently put out an ebook of my writing, called The New Death and others. It's a collection of short pieces, mostly dark fantasy.

    I was wondering if you'd be interested in doing a review on your blog.

    If so, please email me: news@apolitical.info. Let me know what file format is easiest for you, and I'll send you a free copy.

    You can download a sample from the ebook's page on Smashwords:

    http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/92126

    I'm also happy to do interviews, guest posts, or giveaways. Just let me know what you'd prefer.

    Yours,
    James.

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