Thursday, March 8, 2012

Respect and Love Through the Lens of a Writer



Respect is a virtue. It isn't given, it is earned. The same can be said about love. (Makes one wonder what happened in the picture.)

How do writers earn respect from their readers? Of course, we must write the best story we can, but I feel it also has to do with the content in our novels. Do we show our readers characters who overcome trials by making wise choices? Do we take the time to give thorough context in our stories? Do we deliver a story that teaches a value and when the story ends leaves your readers with closure?

Characters who grow . . .
Interesting characters overcome trails and are strengthened. They suffer, they cry, and they learn from their mistakes. Nothing is more boring than to follow a character who never grows. They are boring. Who wants to read hundreds of pages about a person who never has anything happen or who never learns from trials? No one. If your characters are stagnate so is your story. Every human being has bad things happen. Your readers want to learn how to overcome adversity. They want to cheer for someone. They want to see the underdog overcome and win.They want all this because it shows them how they can do the same.

Context in our stories . . .
There are always two sides of every story. Show them to your reader. A villain isn't totally bad. A hero isn't totally good. Give context (history) to your characters. This shows what made them the way they are by their choices. This will add depth and give your readers reasons to empathizes with your characters. If your context has been thorough your hero/heroine will do the right thing at the right time for the right reason.

Delivering the story . . .
Your book makes a promises to readers: that they will be entertained, have a thrilling journey, and will have a resolution. Deliver on those promises. Give them a story that will make them laugh, make them cry, and keep them on the edge of their seats. Also your story must have a satisfying resolution. I must confess I broke this promise with one of my books because it ended with a cliffhanger. I had written the sequel and fully expected it to be published right after. Unfortunately that decision was not mine to make. I'm working hard to deliver on that promise, and I'm hopeful I can very soon. But I learned this lesson the hard way. Don't make my mistake. Always have a good resolution to your story.

If you deliver the best story you possibly can to your readers you will earn their respect and love. And you'll add to your virtue. :)

Do you think the dog has respect or the mouse? Which symbolizes the writer? Which symbolizes the reader?


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5 comments:

  1. What a provocative question! I think the reader and the writer are twisted rope: there is no cord without them and they share the same traits. Sometimes I'm the reader, sometimes the writer, within mine or other people's books. After all, my imagination becomes a writer within the context of the story I'm reading. I agree with your premise here entirely with one caveat: don't tie everything up in a neat bow. Always leave one (or a few more) loose threads even if you have no intention of returning to the story. This allows the reader's imagination to continue "living" within your world and that will also encourage them to return to that world and re-read it over and over. I've seen this work. Great post!

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  2. I'm thinking the dog has patience (for not eating the mouse), and the mouse has a lack of respect (for the dog's teeth). :o)

    Good article, Kathi. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Victoria,
    I'm glad you found my question provocative and that you agree with most of what I said.

    Resolution to a story needs to be satisfying. I love stories where I want to stay with the characters in their world, however, loose threads need to be tied up. Believe me. This is the voice of experience. There a difference between resolution and leaving loose ends dangling. Whenever I can I'm going to tie those babies up. :) Hmm, you've given me an idea for another blog post. Thanks!

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  4. I think what Victoria is trying to say is not to leave readers hanging, but to not tie everything into so perfect a bow that the characters don't live on in readers' imagination. I've heard this advice before (though I can't place it right now) from very successful writers. If the ending is too final, it can feel forced or just "close the book" on the characters in such a way that we aren't interested in a sequel in the first place. If the characters don't live on in the readers' imaginations, then some aspect of the story isn't as fully realized as it could have been, I think.

    It's a very fine balance, of course.

    I've seen this exactly ONE time in my work: I have a novel with two main characters who fall in love, and two minor characters who fall in love. The minor characters are very devout in different faiths (both of which advise marriage within the faith). At the conclusion of the novel, they decide to date anyway, which resolved their love story in the novel, but the ultimate resolution was still up in the air. I've never had any complaints about this (they weren't the central couple, after all), but one person in particular who read this for me was very vocal about how she was still thinking about those characters and what their future held. But that was another story question.

    Another example might be The List by Melanie Jacobson. In the last scene, the characters finally get together and kiss. It's the happily ever after—and we don't have to see an engagement ring or a wedding photo to believe that they do live happily ever after.

    (Of course, YMMV, and I have friends who wanted more from the ending. I once got dinged by a reader for a similar ending—the reader said it had "NO resolution" while other readers found the resolution very satisfying.)

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  5. Jordan,
    Very well put. I like the examples you listed. Just be certain there is resolution to the question that fueled your readers to follow your story. :)

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