Before diving right in, I wanted to take a second to say how much I appreciate each and every one of you. Linking’s release day was awesome; it felt so good to put something (even a short-story-something) out into the universe again after such a long haitus, and part of what made that feel so great was all of you: my wonderful readers who cheered me on, and shared the link, and wrote reviews, asked questions, and told their friends. You’re all the best.
Now, here it is, the final installment of my Your Questions Answered series. That said, this has been such a blast! So, feel free to ask me questions anytime! I’ll answer them for certain, I promise.
Q.5: I heard once that the first thing you have to do as a writer is make the reader care. How do you make readers care?
A.5: Oh man, this is a big question. That’s my initial reaction when I read it, which is probably why I saved it for last. But, really, when I stop and think about it, the answer is pretty simple: characters are what make the readers care, at least in the kind of stories I tell. I have always written, and been most interested in reading, character-driven fiction. So, the short answer is that I make readers care by writing characters that they can care about.
But how do you do that?
The answer to this is more complicated–but also sort of flippant. Frankly, I don’t know if I do. And, in all honesty, nobody does–not really. I write characters that I relate to (I’ve even written characters that I have a hard time relating to until I get to know them,) but at the end of the day, whether that character resonates with readers is anybody’s guess. Who are these mysterious “readers” anyway? They’re all of you reading this, and me, and you over there, and the lady sitting across from me on the bus, and everyone in between. Genre helps to narrow the pool of possible readers, which in turn narrows the audience any given character needs to be relatable to, but even then, it’s a huge misstep to think that because you write a particular genre you know what kind of character fans of that genre will find relatable. On the other side of the coin, if you try to make your characters relatable to too wide an audience, they end up flat and boring.
The trick is to give the reader some details up front so they can connect with this character as soon as possible. It doesn’t have to be a connection derived from a common experience or circumstance–it can be a detail that sparks compassion, concern, curiosity, or some other emotion. It can be linked to physicality, in how you describe the character’s appearance (this is a tricky one–writers beware!) or clues can be dropped within a character’s own inner monolog–what s/he takes note of, his/her impressions of other people, etc.
This questions got me curious, so I did an audit of the opening scenes of Shift, Harbinger, and Augury. Read on if you want to nerd-out on writing stuff. 🙂