Monday, May 10, 2010

The Proof of the Pudding is in the Eating

Chocolate pudding. Just saying the words conjures up visions of velvety goodness. Not all chocolate pudding lives up to my expectations. I remember lifting a spoonful of the scrumptious dessert to my mouth only to experience profound disappointment. The instant variety doesn't deliver the same taste as the cooked version.

How do we know when our characters are "instant" or "cooked?" The proof of the character is in the strong emotional connection. During critique group meetings, various characters stirred the following reactions:

1) A little boy - the reader begged me not to allow him to die.

2) A secondary character - the reader expressed how much she liked him. (He became a main character in Book 2 because of that comment.)

3) A husband and wife - two interesting, but different opinions. A) "Ozzie & Harriet, not enough conflict." B) You must have had a beautiful marriage.

What kind of feedback have you received on your characters? Do they elicit strong emotional responses? How about your villains?

23 comments:

Karen Lange said...

Love the comparison of the instant and cooked varieties! Something good to consider when writing.
Thanks and blessings,
Karen

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

Thanks. I'd rather take the time to develope my characters than use shortcuts.

Blessings,
Susan :)

patti said...

Hopefully folks connect with my characters. I've worked on making them more likable. Natasha has helped me to see why people read novels and what really makes up a novel.

Sigh. Still learning. And yes, the proof is in the puddin'.

CAN YOU BELIEVE that just Saturday, I made cardamom tapioca pudding??? First time I've made pudding in a looooong time, and I LOVE that comfort food!!!

Cindy said...

I think feedback on my characters is some of the hardest to take when it's not good. On the other hand, it's so worth it when the feedback IS good. Either way, characters are so important, so it makes sense to listen when critique members or other readers give feedback about characters.

I've had feedback on two different stories this year, one where the reader loved my main character and wanted to know her and the other where the reader wanted to be more sympathetic of my main character. I definitely took in that advice and made sure I listened to what they were saying in order to improve the connection between the main character and the reader.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Patti -

Oh, that's priceless! I love pudding.

There's so much involved with characterization. Brandilyn Collins' book, "Getting Into Character," helped me. It's a reference tool I keep on hand.

I also like to read best-selling authors and see how they flesh out their characters.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Cindy -

I agree. When the critique is negative it hurts, but the positive feedback gives us a boost.

Getting an emotional reaction puts a major smile on my face. It means the reader is connecting with the character on a deep level.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jill Kemerer said...

Never kill the little boy, right?? :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jill -

I never had any intention of eliminating that character. In fact, he shows up in the second and third book. :)

Blessings,
Susan

quietspirit said...

Susan:
I sometimes have trouble giving character desciptions. I have gotten called down on it by my writing group members. My current story doesn't have much description beyond hair color because I haven't decided on body build or height.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Good characters definitely bring strong responses! Thanks for this reminder!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

You might want to note how other authors describe their characters when you're reading. Earlier, I mentioned Brandilyn Collins' book, "Getting Into Character."

Have you thought of plugging the words, "character description," into your search engine? It's an idea. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kristen -

Are you back from Bolivia? I'll have to pop over and see you. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Jeanette Levellie said...

Since my characters are real people, they often disappoint me with their lack of tastiness. I try to bring out the flavor with my writing, but I must be careful not to add too much or I end up fabricating! Hmmm... maybe I'm a novelist at heart?

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jen -

It sounds like the fiction bug is biting. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Nancy said...

I had a very good friend who critiqued my stories. She would be upset when some little thing bad happened to my characters, but hers were treated far worse because of her genre. I found that rather funny.

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Usually, people really like it when my characters are really colorful and a little bit wild. There has to be an "ordinary" type to balance that out, of course. ;)
As I said in an earlier post on my blog, the only real rejection I get is over "anti-heroines." It seems people prefer the man female character to be a good girl.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Nancy -

Hmm, is there a disconnect between the reader side and the writer side?

Does anyone out there feel disturbed when a character you like suffers, but you can be merciless with your own creations?

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Emily -

Oh, oh, I guess I'd better be careful with my heroine in book 3.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jessica Nelson said...

wow, great post Susan!
Hmm, yes, LOL I get very strong reactions with my characters but they're not always "good" ones. Heh.

I've got work on making more likable peeps. LOL

Sharon Ball said...

I've actually had stronger reader connection to my characters in my second novel than my first. I'm still writing the second book, but I'll be keeping the reader in mind as I continue to flesh out the characters.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sharon -

I would think that's a good sign. Our skills improve with practice.

Not many people have critiqued my second book. My main character was introduced in the first book, and received positive comments.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Nancy said...

On,the same topic, I think there may be a disconnect. I do hate to see my favorite characters in books get harmed, but with my creation, I think it's that you know ahead, at least a little bit and that softens it up a bit. Very interesting idea.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Nancy -

Good point. I don't think it hits the writer as hard as the reader. Of course, I've heard some writers say they cried while writing a particularly difficult scene. I guess it depends on how much you get attached to your characters.

Blessings,
Susan :)