Tag Archives: author

How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #5

I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  (See previous post)

2.       Give them a goal (See previous post)

3.       Caring about others (See previous post)

4.       A special gift or talent. (See previous post)

5.       A handicap

Oooooo.  That’s a good one.

Here’s a good one. Even though you might not be handicapped, you can imagine what it would be like, right?  You feel for someone with a disability.

This came up recently in a comment on my blog, when someone mentioned that the horrid character on the TV show House was softened because he had a handicap.

How about a phobia?

A phobia is a good one two… something they need to overcome in order to fulfill their purpose of hero in the story.

Or something even more simple and relatable

Maybe it is something simple, like they need to run for their lives and the only car available to flee in has a stick shift, but the character does not know how to drive a stick.

Anything wrong with your character is an easy way to make them relatable. No one wants to read about someone who is perfect, right?

Unless you are Mary Poppins.  (But she was only practically perfect, right?)

That’s it!

Five ways to create the ever-important care-factor.  Give your readers characters that they can care about, and they will scream for more!

Think about the main character in your favorite novel. Pinpoint exactly what it was that made you engage with them. What was it? Come on, share the ideas!

_JenniFer____EatoN

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Learning from someone else’s mistakes – How to NOT write a novel

I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels lately. Not because it is my favorite genre, but to help strengthen my skills in writing inner-thought and making an emotional connection between the reader and the character.

I recently read a book that was AWESOME at this.  I was totally engaged. I liked the heroine. I cared about her. I liked the hero even more. They were both complex characters with faults that drove their characterization, and I completely believed them and felt like part of their lives. It was everything I wanted in a novel. This author totally deserved the “bestselling author” splash on her advertising.

At the end of the novel, there was one of those lovely magic buttons nice and handy so I could buy the next book.

Did I buy the next book? No.

Wasn’t I interested in the story? Didn’t I want to know more?

Yes. I totally did. I was ready to stay up late and read more.

So why didn’t I buy the next book?

The author, despite being incredibly talented, lost my trust. The story was not complete. Not by a long shot.

The heroine is being threatened by her brother and a former boyfriend who raped her. She had been in hiding for years, but they found her. She needs to go home and face them because her mother is dying. The hero of the story agrees to go home with her so she is not alone. BAM. It’s over. If you want to see what happens, you need to buy the next book. There isn’t even a neat, tidy closing thought to make the novel feel like it ended, like “I would be fine, I knew I would be fine because we would face this together.”

Nope—a closing line like that was not there. The chapter just ended, and the next page prompted you to buy the next book.

Seriously?

Now, if this had been a free read, I totally would have cut the author some slack. I would have purchased the next book. Call me snobby, but I expect a story to be complete when I pay $5.00 for it.

But maybe I was wrong. Maybe I misunderstood. So I checked to make sure there was not a worded warning like “part one” that I overlooked.

Nope. Nada.

I went from being a wildly enthusiastic fan to a lukewarm, disappointed reader in a matter of seconds.

But the novel was great. Why wouldn’t you buy the next one?

Like I said, she has lost my trust. Will the next book finish the story, or will I be prompted to buy another book? I don’t know. I cannot trust that I will ever see a satisfying ending.

For now and probably forever, I will see this author’s name and red flags will pop up all over the place.

Why not just tell the truth?

Now, if it was stated up front that this was an add-on series, a work in progress available in installments (and priced at $.99 rather than $5.00 each) I would have totally slipped the next book in my cart. In fact, I think that’s an awesome idea.

But you just need to be honest about it.

Don’t lie to your readers.

Would I recommend this book? No. Absolutely not.

I sure did learn from it, though.

What would you think if you finished a book, and it totally left you hanging… Holding you ransom until you paid to find out what happened?

JenniFer_EatonF

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #4

I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  (See previous post)

2.       Give them a goal (See previous post)

3.       Caring about others (See previous post)

4.       A special gift or talent.

A special gift or talent can be tricky

This one can be tricky, but it can be used when the others fail. A special talent, I think, needs to be part of the plot to make it work.  Like a person loves to draw, so we want to see them become a successful artist.  If they don’t, then why did they have the talent mentioned in the story to begin with?

Make sure it has meaning

This needs to be all about fulfillment. They need to use the talent to make something happen in the story.

Yes, this could be a great device, but be careful to make sure it fits inside your plot and story arc.

What recent special talent have you read that really drew you in to a novel?

_JenniFer____EatoN

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #3

I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  (See previous post)

2.       Give them a goal (See previous post)

3.       Caring about others

Even the most horrible person on the planet has to care about someone, right?

Well, maybe not the most horrible person on the planet. I suppose you could create a noteworthy character who does not care about others, but the more I think of it, even the greatest villains of all time cared about something.

A villain can be a big softie

The guy in Psycho was pretty twisted, but that was okay, because he really loved his grandma. The Dude in Despicable Me wanted to be the greatest villain of all time, but these kids that he cared about kept getting in the way.
I think the idea is that in most cases everyone cares about someone. It may be trivial, or it may be gruesome, like keeping your beloved dead grandma… but it is that “care factor” that a reader can relate to.

Taking the easy way out

The handout talks about easier versions of caring, like taking care of a baby or helping an old lady cross the street.  So, if your character is a nice person, just make sure we can see them doing something that shows that they care for others.  They will get brownie points from your readers for their trouble.

Think about a novel your recently read that you loved. What did the main character care about?

_JenniFer____EatoN

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #2

I am skimming over notes I took from a class about creating characters that your reader will care about.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  (See previous post)

2.       Give them a goal

Ugh. Goals. We all have them, right? We all have something we need to do every day. Some goals we like, others we labor over.  The point is, we can all relate to having to do something.

If your character is wandering around in circles with no clear intent, the reader will not be able to engage.  Even before the inciting incident that is the real start to your story… your character has to have a reason for being… a goal of something that needs to be done (it can be simple, like making dinner)

But soon you should hit the “big goal” that will carry your reader along for the rest of the journey. We have to know what the goal is and have a vested interest in the character getting there.

By the way, the “big goal” needs to materialize in the first 25% of the book or earlier.  This may seem like a given to most of you, but I’ve read some works in progress lately where the author did not understand this. Think about your character’s goal, and make sure it is apparent to the reader.

Everyone wants something.

A reader can connect and care if they have the opportunity to root for your character to get what he/she wants.

So go ahead, give them a goal!

What was the character’s goal in your favorite novel? Do you think this is what made it your favorite?

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How to make Your Reader Care About Your Character #1

I was cleaning off my desk this weekend and I came across a handout from a seminar or class that I don’t even remember taking.  I read through the page and considered my current work in progress.  I’m pretty sure that by this time in my career I am doing what the handout recommends as an almost instinctual part of my writing process.

I almost tossed the paper, but thought there may be some people out there who could benefit from these notes.  And, of course, I tend to learn stuff myself when I write out and analyze notes for posts, so let’s see what happens.

To keep things  short, I will break this topic into 5 separate posts.  One thought to chew on at a time.

Disclaimer:  I honestly don’t remember where this handout came from. I’m going to paraphrase the topic and think up my own ideas, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m stealing without giving credit.

All right:  Creating a character people care about:

It should be a given to an author that they need to create characters that their readers will care about. They do not necessarily have to like the character. Some really great characters are very unlikable. But we need to CARE about them, or we won’t keep reading. Right?

So how do we do this?

1.       Relationships.  Everyone in the world has relationships. They can be good, bad, or just tolerable, but you know what a relationship is, and so does your reader. Seeing a character in a relationship is an easy way to help a reader connect.

Let’s think over some memorable relationships.  I’ll grab a character most people know.

Harry Potter.

Harry lives with his aunt and uncle. Wow, they do not treat him well, do they? Have you ever been treated unfairly? Have you every had to put up with it because you had no choice? Have you ever wished a magic letter would show up and scoot you away? (Well, I’m sure the answer is “yes” to most of what I said, anyway.)

Giving Harry this horrible home life helps us to INSTANTLY connect with him. We feel sorry for him and want him to live up to his potential.  If Harry can overcome the odds, maybe we can, too.

Do you see how quickly and easily the connection is made? In the first few scenes we totally care and we are engaged.

Relationships. Use them.

And if your character is stranded on a deserted island, have him draw a face on a ball so he has someone to talk to. Yes, that has been done, but that helped you to connect as well, right?
Relationships are one of the easiest ways to help your readers care about your characters.

How have you used relationships to develop your characters?

_JenniFer____EatoN

What makes you abandon a novel you are reading?

I recently finished a novel that was truly painful. In respect to the author, I’m not going to name it… but it was NOT an enjoyable read.

All the other novels I have lined up were screaming “Try me! I’ll be better, I promise.” And I was pretty sure that ANY of them I picked would have scaled higher on the enjoyment factor.

Was it written poorly?

I don’t think so.  You see, I purchased this book because it was by one of my favorite authors. In fact, this is someone I’ve reviewed and given five stars to, and if you hang here you know I don’t give away five stars all that freely.

I almost gave it up on this story five times, but I continued reading hoping that the author that I’d fallen in love with would shine through.

It didn’t happen.

What didn’t I like?

Well, I think it was a lot of things. This was a western. I detest westerns, but I’d read one last year that I really enjoyed, so I figured my favorite author could pull it off, too.

Ah, no.

The main character also had an annoying name. “Jazzy”.  Yeah, I’m serious. Don’t you want to smack her upside the head already?  I hoped my favorite author could overcome the annoying name.

Nope, didn’t happen.

In the end, I forced myself to finish. Probably because I purchased the book and wanted to get my money’s worth. Probably because I was waiting for some kind of a Sixth Sense ending that would make it all worth my time.

Didn’t happen.

In the end, though, something about the background came out that made me sympathize with Jazzy. Interestingly enough, I suddenly connected. Unfortunately, it was in the last couple of pages… thousands of words too late.

I’m wondering that if I had known this little tidbit of information in the beginning of the story, if the necessary connection between reader and character would have happened… that maybe, just maybe, I would have cared enough about her that I would have been worried when the stagecoach got overrun by bandits. I would have worried when the gun was pointed in her face. I would have cared if Mr. Perfect saved her scrawny butt…

The problem is that I suddenly cared to late, and it did not fix the rest of a very uninteresting read to me.

Have I given up on this favored author? I don’t think so, but I will be much more leery of picking up another title of hers. It’s a shame.

What did I learn?

I try to take away something from every novel I read. In this case, I will remember that if there is a secret or something in a character’s past that may help reader connection, I will push that little tidbit up front.  Late revelations are just that. Late. In this case, too late for me.

What about you? What makes you stop reading a book you have paid good money for?

Jennifer___Eaton

Simple Rules to Writing a Great Novel

Writing_A_Great_Novel

For the past 32 weeks, we’ve been discussing Guthrie’s 32 Rules to Writing A Great Novel.  Here is a handy-dandy list of all the articles and links to them, all in one place.

This is a great time to review, especially if you are editing your manuscript.

Please let me know which one you found the most helpful, or if you think this guy is just off his rocker. :-)

Enjoy!

And Happy Editing!

01- Writing is Subjective – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1yw

02- Oblique Dialog – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1An

03- Whatsa Strong Verb? – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1AK

04- Easy on the Adjectives – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1B8

05- Two for One is not always a good thing – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Bc

06- The shorter the better – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Cd

07- Once is enough, Thank you very much. – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ci

08- Show, Don’t Tell – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Cl

09- Just the facts, Ma’am – The important facts – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Cp

10- Don’t be cute – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Eg

11- Sound like a writer, without SOUNDING like a writer – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1El

12- Who’s talking now? – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1El

13- Yep. Your Write. Ya gotta change it. – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ff

14- Stop “saying” things – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Fk

15- They’re not psychic – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Fq

16- Come late, leave early – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1H0

17- Don’t dump on me! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1H2

18- Goals, anyone? – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HL

19- Don’t sleep with him/her – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HP

20- Go ahead, torture ‘em! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HR

21- The stinkier the better – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1HT

22- The long and short of it – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1IP

23- Stop being all proper – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ke

24- Stop feeling! And no thinking! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Kp

25- Don’t repeat the tense – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Kt

26- Cut your weakest player – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Ky

27- Plant Vegetables, not information – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KD

28- Keep it to yourself, Jerk! – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KG

29- No happy shruggers – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KK

30- Pronouns. Tricky little suckers – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KM

31- Shoot him later – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KO

32- Forget about it – http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1KQ

Forget about it! — Rule #32 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

Writing_A_Great_Novel

I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #32

32: If something works, forget about the rule that says it shouldn’t.

When you read long articles like this, don’t you just hate it when you get to the end and an author puts in a disclaimer like this?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say MOST of the rules in this series are very important, and should not be broken… but, some can IF DONE CORRECTLY.

Let’s talk about Rule 28 that I morphed into “Don’t make your MC unlikable”.  An unlikable MC is possible, if done VERY VERY well.

Ever watch the television show HOUSE?  What a jerk that guy was.  But a lot of people tuned in, because he was portrayed in a way that made us LOVE HIM anyway.

I WOULD NOT recommend this approach to a new writer.  It’s hard.

I’d stick to the rules as closely as you can.  Yes, any rule can be broken. Best Selling authors do it all the time.  But remember… best-selling authors are not searching for agents or publishers.  They’ve “done their time” so to speak.

Save the deviance for later in your career.

So that’s it!  All 32 Rules of Hunting Down the Pleonasm

Which one was your favorite? 

Which did you learn the most from? 

Which do you close your eyes and pretend you don’t know about, ‘cause you don’t wanna listen? 

Let’s chat!

Jennifer___Eaton

I really didn’t like this book – but I’m still giving it four stars

I finished “18 Things” by Jamie Ayres a while ago, and decided to let it sit a simmer before I wrote a review. I considered not writing a review at all, because I’m not sure how to give this book, and the brilliant author, the justice she deserves. The fact is, I really didn’t like this book at all, but I’m still going to give it four stars. Let me explain.

This book grips you from the very first page and thrusts you into a nearly unending roller coaster of emotion. The story is about a girl who witnesses a tragic accident that takes her best friend and secret love’s life. (That’s not a spoiler – it happens in the first few pages.) From there on out, the book is about dealing with loss—overcoming this loss by creating a “bucket list” of 18 things to do.

Crud! Just writing that brought tears to my eyes again!

This is the thing. I read for enjoyment – to escape everyday life. This book is NOT THAT. I cried pretty much from the first page to the last page with a very brief tear-free intermission in the middle. Let me tell you – I have enough problems…I don’t need to be depressed while I’m reading, too!

Disclaimer – I sent this review to the author before I posted it… and she was surprised that I cried so much. She felt the “middle” was fun and light. I did feel the “intermission” but it was short lived for me. (Sorry)

But see, here’s the problem. I wouldn’t give a book a low rating because it was written so well it made me cry. I think it had exactly the emotional response that the author wanted. I couldn’t even deduct a star for lack of explosions, because there was one in the first few pages (well, kind of anyway)

So, why four stars instead of five?

For one thing… this is supposed to be a YA paranormal. I’d forgotten the genre while I was reading, because nothing paranormal happens. I understand why it was placed in the paranormal category (Can’t explain or I’ll spoil it), but this IS NOT a paranormal. If you only enjoy paranormal, you will probably cry through this and be frustrated – but I think that is a category error, not the author’s fault. So I’m not subtracting a star for that – I just thought I’d mention it.

All that aside — Here’s the reason for four stars…

As the novel was winding down, I started to feel safe again. Everything came together nicely. I was readying myself to give it five stars, but at the same time explaining that I didn’t enjoy reading it.

Then…

We hit the last chapter.

Did you hear that annoying sound? It was me grinding my teeth.

I’m one for a great surprise in an ending. Totally love a twist – in most cases. This one, however, kind of bothered me. To be completely honest, I felt cheated. Does that make it not brilliant?

No. It was brilliant.

It just made me a tad miffed. No… I had it right the first time. I felt cheated. I also started crying my eyes out again.

My husband kept feeding me tissues and told me to stop reading. I said “No! I need to finish this so I can stop crying!”

So I am subtracting a star for the ending, although I realize it was needed to set up the possibility for a sequel. To me though, it felt added on to make room for the next book. I’d have given 18 Things five stars without the last chapter.

So, this is the scoop: This book is a brilliant piece of contemporary fiction about dealing with death and learning to live your life again. While there is a slight paranormal edge that you might miss if you blink, this is NOT a paranormal novel.

Readers of contemporary YA will probably love this. I, unfortunately, cried myself silly though the whole thing.