Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Make Me Care

Right now, Kat Duncan is teaching a workshop for the chapter called "Make Me Care." What a brilliant title and concept!

When a reader picks up a book, an implicit agreement is established. The reader assumes that the author has created a story that will make the reader care enough to read until the end.

I've been reading a lot lately and I've been thinking about this idea of "make me care." Some books we open up and they grab us from the start. We immerse ourselves in the characters world and when the book finishes they linger in our minds. We're still thinking about them. Then there are other stories that we enjoy well enough to read all the way through, but for some reason once the book ends, we can barely remember the main character's name.

What's the difference?

Well it would be great if there were some check list that every writer could tick off to make sure they had all the right ingredients to make the reader care. Face it, though, we all approach books with our own biases and set of likes and dislikes. Some characters simply hit all the right notes and get us wrapped up in their lives. Other characters might trigger one of those biases and never move beyond an average experience for the reader.

All an author can do is write the best damn story they can. Dig deep into your characters. Give them believable baggage that isn't so overwhelming that they can't possibly function. Make sure their behavior is consistent with their values. One character that sticks with me right now is a woman who was a former Iraq war vet. She'd served two tours in Iraq and was not adjusting back to civilian life. She'd lost her brother to illness and starts the story dealing with her grief. She discovers her ranch might be used for illegal activities and takes a stand. She's a warrior at heart and she fights because that is the woman she is. She isn't one of these kick-butt heroines that are popular in a lot of stories. She fights to defend and protect and because it is the right thing or the only thing to do at the time. I cared about this character and days later she's still in my head. Kudos to the author, Dana Marton, The Spy Wore Spurs (Harlequin Intrigue) for getting it right.

Now I have to back to revisions and as I review my story, you can bet I'm thinking have I done enough to make the reader care?

I'm definitely going to try.


Josie said...

One romance writer who always made me care about the hero and heroine was Judith McNaught. She is truly one of the great writers, IMHO.

Mona Risk said...

Josie, I still have and remember all of Judith McNaught's characters, even if I forgot the titles of the books. Sometimes, a book grabs me because of a good beginning, but I get thrown out of the story by a sagging middle.