Went to see Where the Wild Things Are this weekend and I enjoyed every second. From the very beginning I was drawn into Max's world, and stayed firmly put until the final credits rolled. Which inspired today's blog post.
I know, as a rational human being, that the Wild Things ARE NOT REAL. They are puppets with computer generated facial features. Yet I enjoyed myself more when I pretended they were real, living, breathing, eating, fighting, filthy, wild things. Why is that? Perhaps it's easier for me to lose myself in a fantasy world than some people, but there are certainly times when it's easier than others. It took all the elements of this movie mixed with the emotions it made me feel to suck me into the story. Which leads me to the question:
How do I do this in my own work?
What combination of craft and emotion do I need in my book to catch readers up completely in the web I've woven for them? How do I make them believe, and thus, SEE my vision?
There's a lot to be said about what a story needs to be successful-- all successful novels rely heavily on craft and style, plot and pacing. But how do these qualities come together and make... MAGIC?
I've decided to make a list of what my strengths and weaknesses are, so that I know what I've got to make magic with. From previous critiques I know that I do a good job setting the scene. That's something to work with, for what would the Wild Things be without their wild island? But I've also been told I need to work harder to reveal what's going on in the main character's head. Okay, I can work on that. I've also been told that my style can read a bit dated. Hmmm, I can work with that, too, especially since one of my strong points is making a historical setting believable.
I won't bore you with the rest, because behind the scenes, making magic is very tiresome. It takes a lot of getting it wrong first to get it right, and a lot of hard work to make something so difficult and time-consuming look so easy. I will tell you that knowing I'm armed with the proper components for my magic making takes a lot of stress out of writing.
Of course, there's one component that's more necessary to the magic than all the rest combined.
Every book needs to have the sort of magic spark that makes a reader want to suspend their disbelief-- a book must make them FEEL. Whether they sympathize with your main character's disadvantaged upbringing, or your antagonist's inexplicable love for his sick sister, the reader must feel something. And this, I think, I really where the magic starts. Where the reader really begins to get lost in the story, to call the author cruel for inflicting such hellish torments on the people they've grown to care for.
Your plot full of angels and demons and apocalyptic mayhem will simply roll off the reader like water off a duck's back until a character that provokes an emotional response comes into the story. Then it becomes as real in their head as it is in the author's.
Which is why we read books in the first place, is it not? To be taken away on a journey of words to a place where the problems of imaginary people become more real than our own?
To conclude, there's no reason why we all can't be masters of making readers feel. Haven't we all experienced pain, loss, wrath? Hope, fear, and envy? What writer (or reader, for that matter) hasn't experienced all the emotions life has to offer? Good writers learn how to harness the energy of these emotions, how to draw upon them to add reality to the novel they are crafting. This is something I'm slowly learning to do because as a writer, I instinctively feel what my characters are feeling. However, unless this emotion is properly transferred to the page, the reader will never truly know what they are supposed to be feeling.
The magic happens when the reader doesn't sense the author's hand forcing them to feel an emotion.
That's when they stop simply seeing your story, and they start believing it.
That's what I hope to be able to do with my current novel.
“All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” ~George Orwell
I'm a YA writer who delves into urban fantasy, paranormal and romance, and who loves reading good books almost as much as writing them.
When not writing—or working—I enjoy daydreaming, drinking tea, and walking in cemeteries. I used to spend the rest of my time checking my inbox for manuscript requests, but am now proudly represented by Rosemary Stimola, of Stimola Literary Studio.