Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Should I Care?

The other day I saw a kid on a skateboard dart in front of a car near our local food store. Though I didn't know him or the driver, I got mad, thinking he should have known better than to jeopardize his life. Also, what about the driver? Imagine what hell the driver would go through if he'd hit the kid.

I often seen people on bikes with child carriers attached to the back, and I wonder why those parents think so much of their own exercise at the expense of what could happen to the child. Again, I don't know these individuals, but they still aggravate me. I can't figure out why children must be buckled up in special car carriers, yet can be so out in the open in the flimsy ones in back of bikes. It doesn't make sense.

Those are actual examples, and there are so many more, where my emotions are affected by people I don't even know.

Why am I mentioning this?

It leads me to one responsibility of authors. Yes, books should be technically correct in grammar and formatting, correct wording, sparse adjectives and adverbs, and all those other items that spell a quality read. However, a book can look correct, but still not engage the reader.

It's the author's duty to make the reader care what happens to the characters, or the reader will feel cheated and bored. Not only must we get into the characters' heads and think the same, but it's also important to share what we feel with the readers.

There are many ways to do this. Some are:

Dialogue, internal or external - What's said or omitted
Mannerisms - Biting a lip, tightening jaws, frown, smile
Another character's observations about the appearance or mannerisms of one of the characters.

These are some techniques. You may know others. If so, please share.

The main thing is to engage the readers. Make them care!

Morgan Mandel
Morgan Mandel is a past president of Chicago-North RWA,
was Library Liaison for Midwest MWA, belongs to Sisters in Crime and EPIC.

Her most recent releases are: Her Handyman, a romantic comedy,
and the thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.

See all her books at
Excerpts & Buy Links:
Twitter: @MorganMandel


Janis Patterson said...

Great post, Morgan. Sadly today taking responsibility for your actions seems to be a dying attitude. Writers have to do their part to change this, and I agree that the best way is to make the reader care - about everything.

By the way, bicyclers are just road mosquitoes - annoying and potentially dangerous.

Steven J. Wangsness said...

Very true. I, too, worry about cyclists with kids in tow, especially when they're on major streets. I understand the whole, let's be green thing, but it makes me nervous, as so many drivers are incautious.

Amber Green said...

I get so frustrated when n00b writers complain about readers not caring about where the story is going. They don't need to. You as an author can't require them to care or order them to care or force them to care. You can only seduce them into caring.

Morgan Mandel said...

Road mosquitos - that's wickedly funny! I do like dark humor.

Exactly, we must seduce readers into caring, which takes finesse!

Morgan Mandel

Heidiwriter said...

Feelings...nothing more than...feelings! :)

The reader needs to be able to feel, smell, taste, hear and see exactly what the character is feeling, smelling, etc.

Good post, Morgan!

Mollie Bryan said...

Great post. I think using the senses is important. I was at a workshop recently where the teacher said at least one sense should be on each page. I think scent is one of the most effective.

Lynn Cahoon said...

Heidi, I know that song...

Sometimes I'm so into the pacing, I forget about the feelings. Thanks for the reminders - Morgan!

Cheryl said...

I agree, Morgan. I can't invest time in a story where I don't care about the characters.

Morgan Mandel said...

Yes, senses are important.
And, yes, I do remember that Feelings song!

Morgan Mandel

Kathleen Kaska said...

Thanks for addressing this topic, Morgan. If a character does grab me, chances are I will not read another book by that author. Another way to bring a protagonist to life is to allow another character to describe or give an opinion of the protagonist.

Morgan Mandel said...

Yes, using another character as an observer is a great way to get feelings across in a book.

Morgan Mandel