Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Creating Character Emotion

by Pepper Basham

Good mornin’ all.

Pepper here, and I’m currently going through a great DVD series by famous scriptwriter and speaker, Michael Hauge. It’s called The Hero’s Two Journeys and is filled with fantastic info I want to share with you guys.

First of all, I’d like to ask you a question. 
Why do you read fiction? I mean, really. Bare bones answer.

If you’re really honest, one of the reasons you and I read fiction is to experience adventures we don’t experience in the everyday. To become emotionally involved in a story. To escape into someone else’s journey.

At the heart of it all – emotions.

Usually, the reason we keep reading a book is because, from the first page, our emotions become involved and we MUST finish the story.

Michael Hauge gives 5 ways to help readers identify with the characters, thus building emotion. What does your hero/heroine need to capture a reader’s emotions?

1. Make the character sympathetic – For example, in the movie Sleepless in Seattle, we immediately feel sorry for Tom Hank’s character because we learn from the first that he’s lost his wife. We’re emotionally drawn into the story to see how the character will overcome, or move past this heartbreak. Or in Laura Frantz' newest novel, Courting Morrow Little, about a young girl whose family was wiped out by rebel Indians. The first chapter grabs the reader and has him/her asking questions about 'what would this type of loss cause a girl to be like when she's grown?"

2. Place the character in jeopardy or danger – Your best suspense stories start this way. Peril. All the CSI shows, or Castle (one of my favorites), or Criminal Minds. They all start with peril. The Fugitive with Harrison Ford starts off with a tragedy that immediately puts the hero in danger, AND builds sympathy because his wife dies. Jamie Carie in her novel Love’s First Light starts the first chapter with the main character running for his life during the French Revolution. While he hides, he watches his entire family go to the guillotine.

3. Make the character likeable – Good people cause us to want to read more. Not only does Julie Lessman make Faith O’Connor passionate in A Passion Most Pure, but she is kind and giving. Her inner conflict with her love for Collin versus her love for her sister and her God, makes us want to root for her.

4. Make the character funny – Nobody does character humor like Mary Connealy, and in all of her books, she starts off the stories with humor…and peril. – so you get two for one. Usually the characters are likeable too.  Humor immediately builds emotional connection. We love to laugh, so it makes us want to keep reading.

5. Make the character powerful – (skilled, determined) Is your character good at something? Skilled. Most of John Grisham’s novels have a hero who is brilliant at some occupation or particular skill. Tillie, in Deanne Gist’s novel Maid to Match, is very good at her job as one of the head maids for the Vanderbilts. Harry Potter’s own Hermoine was brilliant, a walking encyclopedia, on The Mentalist , the main character has a way of reading people’s body language to solve crimes. (He gets some of the best lines in that show too).

So, here are a few tips. Which ones are you using in your wip? It’s important to employ 2 or more to get the most emotional bang for readers.

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