Early summer and touching the reader
I can’t even begin to describe the beautiful past few days we’ve had in Sweden! All I can say is we skipped spring and jumped straight into summer. I don’t mind. I’ve moved my work station to the balcony and there I sit, editing with soft reggae in the background, the warm sunrays caressing my skin.
This week I’ve been working on apostrophes, quotation marks and switching out frequently recurring words. Today I’ll standardize the e-mails, time and dates, and tomorrow I’ll begin rephrasing sentences containing filter words. It’s no walk in the park to write a book! But how lovely it is to see it grow and evolve.
One thing I’m anxious and concerned about, writing my debut novel and all, is my ability to make the reader connect with the characters. They live in my heart, therefore I know them, but how do I know if you as a reader will too? I suppose this is a question all writers struggle with at one point or another.
This week I thought I’d share five tips on how to make the reader identify with your characters. It’s taken from a Swedish handbook in writing released last year, called “Fängsla dina läsare – väck spänning och berör på djupet” (Captivate your readers – evoke suspense and touch in-depth), written by Catrine Tollström.
Here it goes:
- Everyone can relate to existential problems. Sooner or later, we’re faced with issues of freedom vs. dependency, life’s perishability and the existential loneliness of the human.
- Who doesn’t want to dream away and be the hero or heroine once in a while? Most people enjoy looking up to main characters. However, don’t forget that even your super cool role model needs to be vulnerable. A person who’s only rich and good-looking can easily appear rather empty and become difficult to relate to. Which demons, fears and sorrows does the person carry inside? Do you want to depict the unhappiness masked behind the upper-class family’s shiny facade? Then you might have to work harder to gain sympathy.
- Move your readers through evoking vicarious feelings. Maybe the heroine in your humor manuscript is making such a fool of herself that the reader will want to hold a pillow in front of the book. The heroine herself won’t notice. In this case, it’s the character’s way of acting that moves the reader.
- It’s easy to keep your fingers crossed for the underdog. Of course we want the car enthusiast who’s fought the hardest to win the desert rally in the novel we’re reading. Especially since she doesn’t have the financial assets needed to get herself the equipment her competitors have. When they laugh at her, we find ourselves even more on her side.
- Touch through characteristics easy to relate to. Your super hero might be good at most things, but terrible at saying no. Of course, this results in a series of fun or serious consequences in the plot.
(Tollström 2017, p. 39-40)
Hope this gave you a new idea or two!
That’s all for now,
hej så länge!