Friday, July 08, 2016
Characters with depth
I watched figure skating and noticed the best skaters bring more than skill to their performances.
They bring emotional depth. They connect with the audience. They resonate in a way that's long remembered.
How does this relate to writing?
I remember best those novels that made the emotional connection. I was a kid staying up all night to read To Kill A Mockingbird. And some years later did the same with Gone With The Wind. I devoured works by Mary Stewart, Helen MacInnes, Frank Yerby, Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, Taylor Caldwell, on and on . . .
I traveled the world in books, relived history from the age of dinosaurs through wars and beyond, leaped into a future limited only by the writer's imagination. Much excitement, yes, but none of these books would be memorable to me if I hadn't felt an emotional connection to the characters.
How many novels did I read with pounding heart and fear that characters X and Y might not make it? [I wouldn't allow myself to check the last page.] And before it became a given that Romance novels ended happily-ever-after, I sweated through that black moment of despair along with X and Y.
I don't often relive those breathtaking moments; age has jaded me. Yet there are books I close and think, "Whew, what a read," or, more rarely, "I loved it."
I've read many books in which the characters walk through without leaving an impression. I'm not sorry I spent money on those books, I'm sorry the authors toiled for months or years on the novel and failed.
Failed with me, anyway.
If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.
I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really.