After publishing the fifth book in my Andy Smithson coming-of-age, epic fantasy series I noticed something that helped my book sales. “What is it?” you ask, leaning forward, spellbound to learn how you, a fellow author, might exploit this nugget.
I noticed readers consistently report experiencing a roller coaster of emotions as they read the book. In fact, one woman reported she cried…which had her award my book five stars (how strange that seems, we feel hurt and award the author who hurt us with a perfect score…gotta love human psychology, LOL! But I digress).
These responses got me reflecting how earlier books in my series were received. With book two, I remember reviewers commenting on a small portion of the book. Book three had readers sighing and cheering as well but these responses were not as enthusiastic as what I was hearing about my latest release.
I started thinking about the books I enjoy reading…lots of YA fantasy, with a splash of romance thrown in. I love it when an author develops characters who connect with one another in a way that is vulnerable, yet pure and healthy—the characters who experience deep insecurities yet come to a point where they are able to share with one another the depth of their worry and pain without fear of being laughed at, knowing their confession will be respected and held in strict confidence. These are relationships, and in turn books, that get my heart a pumpin’ – I adore them. Put another way, I connect with them.
An example, I think of Air Awakens and Fire Falling. In this series, Elise Kova constructs a relationship between the crown prince and a relative “nobody” who, of course, is not of social status appropriate for him to fall in love with, let alone marry. That relationship is vulnerable and seemingly pure and I find myself rooting for the pair. The Divergent series is another example is Bea and Tobias’s relationship. You feel their pain and cheer their triumphs. And there’s so many more awesome examples I can point to, but I share that to prove my point. We adore these relationships because they touch us deeply, emotionally, many times over.
When I’m writing a particularly vulnerable part of a story, my whole body experiences it. It’s hard to describe the sensations: my heart feels soft, my emotions are raw, and I feel “twitchy” as I approach writing (much like someone before confessing a deep secret). Then once the dialogue begins my whole heart is consumed by an essence of purity for what my characters are truly feeling. Emotion pours out of me until I’ve gotten the scene down on paper. That may sound strange, but I don’t know how else to describe it. Its purity and heart poured out. And these are the scenes my readers have commented specifically about as touching their hearts—they’vealways started this way.
This realization has shifted how I orient as I write, for I see that causing my characters to connect with my readers on this deeply vulnerable and emotional level IS the difference between creating books readers like vs writing a novel readers adore! So, yes, I’m sure the old adage “Sex Sells” is true, but so does the creating of characters who connect with each other on a deeply vulnerable level. Having come to understand this principle I now work to create scenes that tug on my reader’s heart strings like never before.
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