What makes a novel memorable?
The best stories connect with readers on a visceral level. They transport us to another time and place and put us in a different “skin,” where we face challenges we may never know in life. And yet, the commonality of the story problem draws us onward and, in solving it vicariously through the protagonist, changes us.
Another feature of a memorable story is characters that live off the page. One of the highest compliments I’ve received for my novel “Lynx”, Rodeo Romance, Book 1was from a reader who attended a book signing. She said, "I think about that story constantly. Lynx and Rachel's story seems so real, so heart-wrenching, and their love so enduring. She shared that she was going through a difficult time in her life and my story gave her hope.
Hope for someone going through a desperate time in her life.
I felt blessed that she shared her story with me. I was also very humbled.
We, as writers, are so focused on the mechanics of writing, plotting, and meeting deadlines, that we forget/ or do not realize how truly powerful our story is to a reader.
While I never sit down at the keyboard and say, “I think I will write a powerful, life-changing story today.” What I do, by nature, is select a social issue for the core of my stories. Since my stories are character-driven and often told in the first person, the emotion has a natural flow.
How do you create this type of engagement with your story?
Go beyond the five senses. Your reader must feel your character’s emotions. Your reader must forget there is a world outside of your story.
Embrace idiosyncrasies. As teenagers, everyone wanted to fit in, be one of the crowd. Your character isn’t like anyone else. Give him an unexpected, but a believable trait. In “Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow”, my heroine, a Zombie has a pet. Not a zombie pet. Not a dog, or a cat. She has a teddy bear hamster named Gertie.
Make them laugh. It doesn’t need to be a slap-stick. Just a little comic relief when the reader least expects it to happen.
Make them cry. Remember the scene in the movie classic, Romancing the Stone, where Joan Wilder is crying when she writes the final scene in her novel? I find this is the key. If you are crying, your reader will be crying too.
If you are writing a romance, make them fall in love. Make the magic last. The first meeting, first kiss, the moment of falling in love. These are the memories our readers savor, wait for in our stories. Don’t disappoint them.
As Emily Dickinson, said so well:
There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
Her friend was right--she did need to get on with her life. She couldn't keep expecting shadows to cover her world. Rachel had never been close to her parents, but her father's death had left a deep hole in her life. Perhaps attending the rodeo would be a good first step to her letting go of the past.
"You're right, Charlene. I can't avoid my past forever. And a promise is a promise. What time does the bull riding start?"
Charlene let out a whoop of delight. "If we get move on it, we'll see the first series of rides."
Thunder rumbled across the remote New Mexico sky as an unforgiving wind shoved somber gray clouds against a craggy mountaintop. Brede Kristensen tugged the brim of his Stetson lower his forehead. The threat of a storm didn't faze him; nothing fazed him anymore. The worst had already happened.
Tanayia --Whisper Upon the Water
The Governor of New Mexico decreed that all Indian children over six to be educated in the ways of the white man.
Indian Commissioner, Thomas Morgan, said, "It is cheaper to educate the Indians than to kill them."
1880, Apacheria, Season of Ripened Berries
Isolated bands of colored clay on white limestone remained where the sagebrush is tripped from Mother Earth by sudden storms and surface waters. Desolate. Bleak. A land made of barren rocks and twisted paths that reach out into the silence.
A world of hunger and hardship. This is my world. I am Tanayia. I was born thirteen winters ago. We call ourselves N'dee. The People. The white man calls us Apache.
I hope you enjoyed my blog post.
Great advice, Connie. And I agree with your statement, "Your reader must forget there is a world outside of your story." Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
So true. When we write our stories, we have no idea how it will affect the readers... until they tell us how it changed their lives. Thanks for sharing your experience... and your great writing.ReplyDelete
Beautifully expressed, Connie. I do the cry test for all my novels! If we're passionate, our readers might catch the passion, too!ReplyDelete