Thursday, June 21, 2012

Connecting through Character Emotions

What am I reading now?



(both by Laural Oliver, Delirium books 1 & 2)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  What if love were a disease? And the person who infected you and yourself would be put to death for it--for the greater good of the nation. Good thing there's a cure so the American people will never have to deal with that epidemic again.

Unless some don't want to be cured!
Loving this series.

Connecting through Character Emotions

Deanna and I are going through our stories right now looking for opportunities to show the characters' emotions more. We've been accused (by beta readers) of needing more. (Yup--each book and all beta readers). We want our readers to love our characters as much as we do, so we have to write the characters in a way that readers will connect with them. So in the scenes I'm trying to:

•Identify and mark clearly in the text anytime the character experiences a big change, set back, ah-ha or twist. Ask and write about:
          - How are the character's view, motivation and well-being affected?
          - What fears does the situation present for them to overcome, or it creates?
          - How does this change what's at stake for the character?
          - What deeply held beliefs or desires does this bring up for reflection?
          - How does this change their relationships by adding drama and tension?

•Look at the novel as a whole and place sticky-notes on scenes that mark the step-by-step progress the protagonist is making toward their emotional transformation.

I read a book recently where this was the major problem. The story had a great concept, but the execution left me not caring about the protagonist. The protagonist didn't make incremental progress toward her transformation. In fact, three-quarters of the way into the story she seemed to be the same whiney, mean-spirited brat she was when she first met the hero. Then when some switch was flipped at the end of the book and she realized how to solve her problem, all I could think was that I was sorry for the guy and hoped he dumped her soon, 'cause his life will be hell, living with someone so cruel and anchored in past failures. Translation: emotional connection--epic fail.

Here's my take away. I can see it in the books I read when the readers are not emotionally tied to the main character, and it's easy to spot when they are. So, now I have to learn more objectivity about my own stories and find the fixes needed.


Jordan McCollum said...

Good luck with this! Emotions are tough. My #1 favorite resource for writing emotions is the Empowering Character Emotions course I took from Margie Lawson a couple years ago. I learned so much. I was afraid to put emotion on the page because I didn't think I would leave enough room for the reader to feel, but I ended up with nothing for the reader to feel instead. I learned so much in that class. (I earn nothing from Margie, but I love her classes so much I plug her every chance I get ;)

Jordan McCollum said...

Oh, and I read Delirium last year and loved it! I'll have go pick up Pandemonium soon.