This morning I purchased another book. This is my new addiction now that I have a Kindle. It was a magazine review of this book that got my blood pumping and created within me a desire to find out what a little boy could possibly know about a murder. So, at the Kindle Store, my fingers pressed the right keys, thus causing the title to appear on my Kindle home page. As with all addictions, I was helpless to control this process.
Reading what others have written has always been part of my life, and, if the story is well-written, I’m soon experiencing the emotions and feelings of the characters. During my childhood, my mother read to me almost every night. One of my favorite stories then was Peter Rabbit. As Mom read to me, I became caught up in the emotions of Peter, an adventuresome bunny, who just couldn’t seem to be good like his sisters. When Peter had a close call with the angry farmer, my heart beat faster and I felt anxious about his safety, even though I had already heard the story many times.
I have to believe that Beatrix Potter, as she wrote, felt what that little bunny felt each time he was discovered by, and then slipped away from, the farmer. I believe that’s what made her such a great author.
A few months ago I read Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and as I read, I experienced the emotions of being in Hank Morgan’s life-threatening situations. It would be unimaginable that Twain was passive and distant from his characters. I think he had to “be” the people he wrote about in order to make them and their situations real to me.
I’ve heard writers say they can’t understand why they often get questions from readers such as: “Did you pattern the main character after your life?” or “Were the things that happened in the story your experiences?”
From the many novels I’ve read over the years, what I have learned is that the answers to those questions are probably both “yes” and “no.” No, in that the character is not the author or even like the author, but yes, because the author managed to crawl inside the skin of the protagonist and live as one with that character, thinking the thoughts, experiencing the emotions, and feeling the pain as each scene unfolds on the pages of the book. I suspect that it is when the heartbeat of the protagonist and the heartbeat of the author become one that the emotions and actions of the story become real. Thus, the reader of this “real” account is transported through time and circumstance to live inside of the story.
While I was writing my novel, only a select group of people was allowed to read my story. Those who were allowed to read it received the manuscript along with instructions to be honest. As with most authors, the first readers were family. You would have to know our family and the security we have within the ranks to understand the brutal honesty from my nearest and dearest.
Following circulation to kin, I expanded my readership to include trusted friends, critiques by fellow members of my writers group, and, finally, I ventured out into the waters of writing contests.
From each of my readers, I received comments and beneficial evaluations, but one I have come to cherish is one I received via a phone call. The reader simply said, “I laughed and I cried.” It was then that I knew I had become one with my protagonist and the feelings she had were the feelings shared by the reader.
Anxiously awaiting the November release of Child of Desire!