Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Connecting reader to character

Today I want to blog on a topic very close to my heart.  It's close to my heart because it's perhaps one of the most common reasons writers hear from agents about why they are rejecting their work.  It's the infamous "I just didn't connect with your character/story in the way I wanted to".

Yup.  I hear all my fellow writers groan.  I know, this one is perhaps the most frustrating rejection because it doesn't exactly tell you what aspect you need to fix.  It's an abstract rejection.  So how can hard working writers get around this, so that we can create the kind of characters that our readers DO connect with?

Well, I have been searching high and low to find out actual, concrete ways to help hit this rejection nail on the head.

And here are the best three solutions I can come up with.

1)  Emotional Filters.  Yes, my fellow CPs will know this one is a biggie for me.  What is an emotional filter?  And how can it connect my characters to the reader?  Simply put, an emotional filter is a technique used to show things in your MC's world in a way that SHOWS the reader not only the description, but the way the MC feels at that particular moment.  For example, if your character is describing their home, you could tackle this in two ways:

a)  The glass specks in the black bricks shimmered in the morning sun, casting sparkling light over the path.  I eyed the windows.  The curtains were drawn.

However, through an emotional filter:

b)  The glass specks in the black bricks sparkled, their light sneaking over the path like a warning.  The curtains were drawn over the windows, thick material hiding the secrets inside. 

Example one doesn't tell us anything about HOW the narrator feels.  We're removed from the MC's feelings.  However, example two shows that the MC is feeling on edge, by using words such as "sneaking", "warning" and "secrets".

Some great articles on emotional filters are:


2)  You can also connect your reader more to your MC by using subtext.  Don't always spell things out to your reader (or for your MCs).  Use misunderstandings to your advantage.  Don't say everything directly.  In real life, we don't always say what we mean.  Let your characters do the same.

A good article to check out, especially about dialogue, is:

3)  Dig into your character's mind.  Really get to know your character and show the reader what their biggest dreams are, their strongest fears, and more importantly WHY these things are so important to your character.  And that's the rub.  Readers don't really care what your characters dreams are unless they can understand WHY they are so important to them.  Ditto fears.  So make sure you really dig into the bare bones of what makes your character feel the way they do.


I hope that these suggestions offer some help or insight on how to get around the rejection of "I didn't quite connect with this story/character in the way I wanted to".  Remember, they aren't hard and fast rules, but they are the most solid ways I can find of strengthening your ms against this frustrating rejection.

If anyone else has any further insights - feel free to weigh in!!!

Friday, 8 February 2013

All Change...

First of all, I have some rather exciting news to announce - I have an interview coming up with a rather fantastic editor - Danielle Ellison from Spencer Hill.  Check back regularly for updates, as it won't be long before you find out what this fabulous editor (and writer!) is all about!

Now then, on to the meat and potatoes of the post.

I have gathered you all here today to talk to you about what happens to a writer on their journey to hopeful publication.  This topic?  All change at station one!

So you have an agent (finally!), you're all set and out on sub (we covered that in an earlier post)...and then...then you get news.  Your agent is leaving their agency.

Well.  That is the first reaction above.  On no!  The world has crumbled!  I'm going to die.  What do I do?  Someone please help me.  But I just FOUND her! (or him!).  Kill me.  Someone please kill me.

However, once that passes, and pass it does, you then move onto the more realistic question of:  What the F&%$ am I going to do now???

And this is where that advice "don't just pick the first agent who offers you representation" has the potential to come back and bite you on the ass....

Please, please, PLEASE heed that advice.  Yes, I too remember thinking "are you crazy, any freaking agent will do?" at my lowest ebb.  However, I am SO glad my common sense prevailed and I took my time to find the perfect agent for me.

It made the decision super easy and super quick.  Here's a quick recap (and forgive the paraphrasing of the conversation) of my agent talk regarding this sensitive discussion:

Jamie:  Hi Fiona.  I wanted to let you know I'm leaving XYZ agency and joining ABC agency.  I really love your book and working with you...**insert lots of lovely words about my book which I still am amazed she thinks relate to me and my work*...and I'm asking whether you want to come as my client or would prefer to stay with the original agency.

Me:  Hmm...let me think about this...okay.  This may take a while..YES!  YES!  YES!  SQUEEEEEEEEE (yes, I professionally squeed!).  I am IN like Flynn!  Anywhere you go, I go.  You're like the most amazing agent ever and I will follow you off a cliff (no really!) if you thought it was a good career move.  (And yes, for all you observant bunnies out there - I did do a ridiculous amount of being thrilled over joining my agent in her new venture!).

But herein lies the point.  PICK THE RIGHT AGENT FOR YOU right at the very start.  No matter how hard.  No matter how desperate you are (yes, I know desperate...no trust me...16 years people...16 years of aiming to get an agent).  No matter HOW BAD YOU WANT IT.  Wait.  Think.  Go with the perfect match for you.  This is the agent you want to spend your whole writing career with, so you want to get it right the first time around.

And it pays.  Over and over and over again it pays.

Me and my super agent - neither of us are actually really handsome men. ;-)

Now, some of you may have been in this situation before and opted to go with the original agency and not your original agent.  That's totally fine.  Everyone has their own path.

My only advice is to think think THINK about who you want to work with for the next gosh knows how many years.  And yes, that goes for agents too - do you reaaaaally want to work with this person for a long time to come (Jamie, don't answer that!  lol).

I can safely say to my agent:  Jamie...change your locks, move state, create a secret identity...I'll still find you.  Changing agencies won't shake me off!  ;-)