Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Investing

I'm not here to talk about my 401K and not just because it's totally pathetic. Seriously, I'll be lucky if I get to eat the expensive cat food when I retire. Nope. I want to talk about getting people to invest in your book, not just with their money and their time, but also with their hearts.

I got a great e-mail the other day. It was from a reader who was worried about one of the characters in my last book. Granted, I wished I'd explained how things ended up a little better in the book so she wouldn't have been upset in the first place, but she wrote me an e-mail because she WAS WORRIED ABOUT A FICTIONAL PERSON I MADE UP!! So regardless of the fact that I maybe left a little loose end, I felt like just about the most successful author on the planet.

Yesterday, Sarah Mayberry talked about how she starts a book. Where did she start? With character. The last time I read a book and sat there with tears rolling down my face at the end of it, it was because I was invested in the character. Oh, sure, the plot was great and meticulously researched and the setting was beautifully wrought and the dialogue was good. Still, it was the character that the author made me love and made my heart break along with hers.

How do we do this? I have no clue. I guess I lucked out a little last time. I know I like my characters flawed, but they still have to be redeemable. It's a tricky line to balance on. I know Molly knows how to walk that tightrope pretty darn well.

What do you need in a character to connect with them?


10 comments:

Alli said...

Oh, I love finishing a book and feeling like I've just lost some great friends. For me, it's flawed characters. Ones that are misguided (not through stupidity) but through circumstances beyond their control. They try to make things right, and whether they get it right or not doesn't worry me, it's the trying that counts.
I love nothing more than a good belly laugh or tear. One book I read recently had me howling my eyes out so much so that I had to put the book down, wipe away the tears, take a deep breath and then continue. Dh asked me why I was persisting with the book if it made me so sad - and I replied "because I care what happens to this character!"

Stephanie Doyle said...

As I get older, I find the more I'm enoying the character exploration while writing. I used to love cool plot points, big surprises and twists. But recently all my focus is now on character.

In my latest I have a self proclaimed germaphobe and I really could have spent so much more time just focusing on that. (Couldn't because it was a category) but I really loved the new element it brought to my heroine. And then... at the end of the book I dumped her in a trash bin. I felt so freakin horrible. Literally guilty as I was writing the scene. And it dawned on me... this is good. This is you really connecting with your character so that you feel bad about messing her up.

I think the more we authors connect - the more readers will. At least I hope so.

Eileen said...

NIce, Stephanie! I have such a hard time being mean to my characters. I need to learn to dump the germaphobe in the Dumpster. That is awesome.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Awesome post - something i've been thinking about a lot lately with a few books I just finished reading. Awesome books - great zing. Two in particular with so beautifully written - truly a pleasure. That said -- something was so lacking. I knew the scene I was supposed to be crying in and...no tears. And I think it has to do with Stephanie and the dumpster - but I also think it has to do with expectations.

For some reason, I'm thinking about Memory Keepers Daughter - remember that book. Cried and cried like a baby.(i'm with you Alli - i want to be tortured by my entertainment. go figure) Everyone in the book was vulnerable and specifically vulnerable - a big whooper of an achilles heel for every character and each of them - every single one got tossed in thier own dumpster nd it was all tied in essence to two events. Amazing.

The other part of it - is if you show me a characters flaw - I can see what dumpster you might choose -- but if you're clever and smart and totally screw with my expectations - you'll toss them in a different dumpster or even better I'll never see the dumpster coming. That's magic.

Steph - thanks for the mileage from your dumpster idea - can't wait to read that book!

Eileen said...

Ooh, Molly, you're so right! If you can throw them in a different Dumpster that no one expects! I'm at the beginning point of a new project and I think I need to figure out exactly what Dumpster my heroine is going into. It's going to have to be something about responsibility. Past that . . . I'm not too sure.

Maureen McGowan said...

Great topic. But my brain is broken. I started writing a few thins, but none of it made any sense. LOL. If anyone finds my brain, PLEASE let me know where it is.

Eileen said...

Oh, Maureen! Tell me about it! I can't believe I even managed the tiny little post I wrote! I almost forgot to post at all and knew I wasn't giving the subject the attention it deserved, but that was all that was left of my brain cells.

I spent the entire afternoon (from 1:00 to 5:00)taking my mother to the dentist. By the time I got the family fed and settled and thought I'd have a few minutes, my son asked me if I could make a rapier that might look like Hamlet would carry it out of cardboard and duct tape. And oh, by the way, he needed it for the next day. Then my younger son needed to practice his presentation. He will be acting as Napoleon's defense attorney this afternoon at school and needed to work on his opening arguments.

Did I mention I had a couple of baskets of laundry to fold as well?

Sinead M said...

Love the idea of the dumpster. Can't wait to read the germophobe book.

Investing for me is about the character's flaws and the stakes...

Give me someone I can relate to, and ensure what's on the line is huge for them, and I'm 95% of the way there

Maureen McGowan said...

Good point about the stakes, Sinead. I think that really makes a huge difference.

Eileen... you're making my day seem easy. I am shamed. I've just hit another point in my ms where I can't imagine how the fraking thing is going to be finished when it's due.

Molly O'Keefe said...

you know stakes is another one of the problems with the books I just read. Huge stakes - big giant - she'll be destroyed if people find out her secret - but then the stakes don't change - it starts so high - which is great, but then it becomes so many scenes about the same thing. I can't let anyone know my secret...

i don't think it needs to start small and build, I liked that the stakes were high from the get go, but then we need smaller stakes to mix things up. bugged me.

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