Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Examples Of When I First Care About The Character

How long does it take in your story before readers are hooked with your main character? Will they connect with the character at all?

We as readers need to care about the main character to keep reading. Even if she's a cranky, self-centered person, she needs to DO something to make us like her. It can be subtle or loud on the page.

I've pulled a few young adult and middle grade books off my shelf and give examples of when I cared about the MC's journey.

"Tender" by Valerie Hobbs has an MC that looks on the darker side of life. At first, I didn't know if I liked her. I always enjoy Valerie's books, though, and so I wanted to care about this main character, Liz. On page six, the grandmother forgets to do a simple thing, and this is what happens. Liz settles the tea cozy over the pot because Gran has forgotten. This is where I begin to LIKE Liz. A subtle move, but to the point within the first pages of what promises me a powerful story.

"Each Little Bird That Sings" by Deborah Wiles is one of my all time favorites about the progression from life to death. This middle grade book can help any child who's struggling with loss of a loved one. On page eight, Comfort (the name drew me to her) sits in her closet with her dog, Dismay. Here's where I liked Comfort. Dismay sat facing me (it's a big closet), with his paws touching my bare toes. He panted nervously and his dog saliva drip-drip-dripped onto my feet. Comfort loves her dog, and now I love her.

"Bad Girls Club" by Judy Gregerson had me on page five. Destiny tells her parents what she wants to do for the summer. Then, her mom speaks sharply to Destiny's little sister, Cassidy. Here is where I care about Destiny. My arm automatically goes around Cassidy's shoulder. I lean my body in close, but Mom reaches behind her, grabs a towel from the counter, and throws it in my sister's face. I quickly pull it off. Destiny cares about her sister, so I care about Destiny.

I've learned much about this from Blake Synder's "Save The Cat," a screenwriting book that you can apply to novel writing. People are saying this is the best book ever written for writers. All I know is that it helped me.

With my story, ROAD TRIP OF THEIR LIVES, Kari's ninety-year-old granny begins a six hundred mile drive with her granddaughters to visit family. Granny knows Kari isn't happy about it and has told her she can continue the trip without them. On page three, I think readers will care about the MC. Kari can't imagine Granny driving all the way to Oregon by her lonesome. She studies Granny to see if she's joking, but she wears her poker face. Kari seizes the moment. "You know Granny . . . wouldn't it be fun to stop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see the dolphins and fish?" Kari cares about her granny and her sisters' safety, and I hope readers will want to stay with Kari's journey.

Check out Synder's book and you'll learn his secrets of how we can work our words to keep readers reading.

Until next time . . .


  1. I just got this book for my birthday! It's pretty good, really and I love the example he gives of the cop who's conducting a sting but when the one crook comes to the ballgame with his kid, the cop quietly shows him his badge, so the crook won't have to get arrested in front of his son... but then he says, "I'll catch you later..." so you know it's not a pass, it's just a way of looking out for a poor kid who thought he was seeing a baseball game that day.

    A lot of writers swear by screenwriting books, and while the forms are a little different, they're both telling a story. We use the same archtypes and same plots, just with our own personal spin on it...

    I don't agree with everything in there, but it's a good book overall. I know I've been enjoying it. Oh, and the loglines lesson definitely translates. You need the same thing for your query. :-)

  2. I bought Blake Synder's book last winter, but haven't finished it as yet. Really great eye opening suggestions.

    BTW, happy birthday, Merry!

  3. Oh, thanks :-) It was a few weeks ago... I had the book on my wishlist, and my husband picked three from my wishlist and picked them up for the kids to give me as a gift - Save the Cat was one and two novels I've been wanting to read... no better gift than booksies :-)