Wednesday, October 2, 2013
What's the Key to Winning Readers?
What do some books have that others don't? I read quite a bit - mostly romance but I also like an entertaining light mystery. Occasionally I'll read fantasy or drama but not too heavy. Some books have me hooked right from the beginning or close to the beginning and I don't want to put them down. Others drag. Some I even put down and don't finish. Several books have been a soul-touching and incredible experience.
Who doesn't want to write a book like that?
I've been trying to put my thumb on what exactly determines whether I'll stick to a book or even more so an author. I'm battling to come up with one definite key. I've read books where there are grammar and typographical problems. They irritate me immensely but if it's a good story, I'll still carry on reading. They can even hop from one point of view to another in the middle of a scene which knocks a reader off for a moment. It's annoying, yes, but if the story's good, I will continue to read.
Poor characterisation is not so easy - when characters don't appeal to me or they seem mean or unsympathetic. I hate it when the story drags and nothing happens.
I've recently put a book down because there wasn't enough conflict. There was a little pulling away between the hero and heroine but nothing dramatic. They were engaged and she was struggling with some issues from her past. But I wasn't invested enough in the book to continue. I mean, they mostly have what they need anyway.
To me the greatest key is to make me feel. Connect me with the souls of the characters. I want to feel their need, their pain, and their joy. Don't kill them off, please. Not in a romance. That makes me feel way too much.
So yes, the story could be quite ordinary but if I really feel elated and touched by the romance, I'm satisfied. With a mystery and thriller, the plot is more essential but characterisation is key. I enjoy Nancy Mehl's mysteries. It's not so much the mystery but the way she weaves her character's lives together. There's a touch of romance in them but not deeply developed. That's why I won't just read a thriller or mystery for the suspense. There must be something to touch my emotions.
I think I speak from the point of view of most romance readers.
So, how do we touch emotions? It's really hard to do. To make our reader feel, we need to feel it, too. Write something that's close to our heart or touching a chord somehow. We may not have experienced what our characters have but we've felt a touch of the emotion in our lives. But doing this doesn't guarantee to touch our readers.
I've read something recently about chemistry. Just like the chemistry between a couple, not all readers will have chemistry with your book / books. There are some really good-looking guys around whom most girls will squeal over but they mean nothing to me. There's no chemistry, no attraction. What causes it are many unknown factors. There are many excellent books out there. A top-selling inspiration romance writer, Karen Kingsbury, is one of the most popular writers amongst Christians at the moment. I've tried her books. Really tried. I actually cringe when I see one of her books on a shelf. I really, really don't gel with them. She's probably an excellent writer. She must be if she's so popular. The chemistry just isn't there.
I used to get so depressed when I got a bad review for one of my books. I still don't like it but I'm able to see it more objectively. Everyone has different taste. Okay, I do take to heart what they say and try to improve on my books, but not everyone will like my book. Joining a book club has just cemented to me how different everyone's taste is in books.
The essential thing is to make more and more people like your books. Make them feel. Make their heart soar on the wings of romantic love.
I'm still not 100% sure of the key, but this is my own conclusion. Enough rambling for one blog post.