Monday, August 30, 2010
Okay. What I'm about to write is not to toot my own horn. It is meant to illustrate the title of this blog post. So bear with me.
Sitting outside on my mother's porch one afternoon, she told me some of the comments she has gotten from her friends that are reading 'Surrender the Wind'. She said, "Inga said she is in love with Seth, and so worried about him and Juleah, that she can't put the book down. Annette said the same thing. She loves Seth too, and is worried about Juleah." She then let out a little giggle. "I know what they mean. I fell in love with him too, and I worried so much about what was going to happen to him in Juleah that I couldn't stop reading."
I replied, "Thanks, mom. That's what I needed to hear."
Why? you ask. Because it should be the goal of every writer to cause the reader to be worried, concerned, and attached to your characters, especially to your hero and heroine. They want to feel these emotions. I know I do when I start a novel. And if I do not, I usually do not finish the book. I must be captured by emotion. I must be drawn in so closely to the problems, the fears, the danger that the characters are in to keep me glued to the pages. I must be worried about the heroine and hero. I must be concerned about what is going to happen next to them.
To sum it up:
Strive to bring the reader to the place where they feel the emotions of your characters. Do this by action. The sweat on your hero's brow, trickling down his neck. The tension your heroine feels as she watches danger approach.
Keep in mind that for most people emotions, such as empathy, are deeply felt and deeply hidden. Do not be afraid as a writer to keep it this way --- in check and in control. If your hero keeps his passion in control, let's say his desire to strike out due to mounting emotions, wait for the right time and the right place to let loose, then you will avoid melodrama.
The greatest way to tap into your readers' empathy is by exposing your characters deep-seated emotions. While writing about the suffering your heroine is going through, perhaps she suffers privately, when she is alone, without others noticing. Something might trigger her hidden pain, either through scene or dialogue, and suddenly she opens up. Or the whole dam breaks.
In the novel I am currently writing, Before the Scarlet Dawn, my heroine, Eliza, longs to be loved for who and what she is on the inside, not for her outward beauty. I take her on a whirlwind of experiences that lead up to a day when she is broken and gives in, surrenders to that longing. At the end of the chapter, when 'he drew her inside and shut the door' the reader is left with the question 'what happened behind that closed door?'. This ending builds worry in the reader. Moving forward it unravels, and when Eliza is faced with the deepest of rejections, her life takes a drastic turn leading to . . . well, you'll have to read the book when it is released in early 2012.
In what way are you building empathy in your work in progress, or in a novel you have written?
Posted by Rita Gerlach at 10:27 AM