Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Making a connection: sympathizing with the characters

Recently, I was asked a question for my upcoming blog tour for the release of If I Speak True in January. It was: What do you think makes a well-written story? I kind of surprised myself when I didn't even have to think before giving my answer: well-written characters, tension, mystery, and humor.

Later, as I was thinking about my interview answers, I had to laugh. Apparently, a plot--of any kind--wasn't even on my list of necessities. I've found that I love to be in the characters' heads more than anything, which leads me to today's topic: How do you keep that happy medium of delving into your characters' heads enough that you readers connect with them, but not so much that they can't stand reading it?

I know some people have felt that Pity Isn't An Option is way too into Jonas and Hattie's heads, and I get it. Sometimes readers are in the mood for a story like that, and sometimes not. Sometimes they're in the mood to get to know characters and coast along on their journeys, other times they'd rather see a wide scheme of things played out before they reach the back cover.

So here's my question for you: How, as writers, do you attain this? I've often seen reviews where readers share their frustrations of feeling no connection to the main characters (or the opposite--they were tired of the characters and wanted more action), and I've wondered, Does the author's voice have anything to do with this? Is it a conflict of personalities (the reader's and the MCs) that makes this such a touchy experience? Or, Did the author simply miss the opportunity to get you to sympathize with the character/s by not helping you understand where they're emotionally coming from, first?


Enabling the reader to sympathize with the characters is, after all, part of writing a "well-written" book in the first place--something all of us writers are striving for. Below, I've listed a few books that really made me connect, sympathize and root for the characters. 

How about you? We'd love to hear about your own personal character connections in the comments!


The House of the ScorpionNever Fall DownStolen: A Letter to My Captor
I Capture the CastleRose Under FireJude











1 comment:

  1. "I didn't connect with the characters" was by far the most maddening comment to get in a rejection while submitting to agents--got it a lot on my first book. My second book is more voice-y, with the reader getting glimpses into Avery's convoluted mind quite frequently, and I didn't get that comment as much. One example that comes to mind for a character to connect with is The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.

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