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  1. Ohlookabirdy!
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    Ohlookabirdy! Member

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    Establishing reader-character connection

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ohlookabirdy!, Sep 26, 2011.

    So I got my very first rejection letter today!

    *throws confetti and starts slicing up cake for all takers*

    The editor was nice enough to say they liked the plot, but I did not establish "an immediate reader-character connection", a reason for people to root for the protagonists early on. So I wanted to put it to a question- how do you go about establishing emotional bonds between reader and protagonist. You! Yes, you, with my cake in your hands! It's not free cake! Pony up some advice if you want some!

    Everyone who fails to give advice can only have yogurt!
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Is this for a short story?

    Give the reader something to empathize with. Go back and look at stories where you have felt the strongest connections to the characters. How does the author accomplish it?
     
  3. Summer
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    You could try adding some foreshadowing of events to come, a compelling relationship [or potential relationship], a bit of mystery, open with a relatable event [that is obv. relavent], etc. I personally like to write stories where the character development is the primary story so I like starting off with relationships [not necessarily romantic] or making the character itself a bit "mysterious". Making a character "relatable" is pretty vague without the target audience, nature of the story, and character traits. Hook the reader with the plot at the beginning if you cant figure out a way to make the character immediately relatable (which is actually pretty hard to do). Everyone responds differently to different aspects of a character. Someone might feel your character is great at the beginning, and others, not so much. Some people would argue that you don't even need to root for the protagonist. If you are personally happy with your work and do not feel like there is anything wrong with how you initially presented your protag, try submitting elsewhere and getting more responses.

    The overall response from the editor is pretty vague and really might not mean what it is saying. [I might be the type to read into things too much...] but I would interpret the response as saying "I just wasn't drawn into the story the way I expected to be." The editor may not have even finished the story, just felt if it doesn't grab me in X amount of pages, it will be difficult to get others to take it up. Given the response that you got, I would probably re-write the entire beginning of the story [which of course leads to the question: where does the beginning end?]. That's just me though. I pretty much of a heart attack and stop bathing until I fix things that I have been even mildly criticized for.

    btw, I don't eat cake. Or yogurt. Can I have a mango? :)

    Edit// I am making the assumption that this is a longer story [not necessarily a novel] so some of these may not apply. If it is a short story, try starting the story at a different point.
     
  4. Show
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    Sounds a tad generic of a reply. Immediate connection? I can't say I've ever felt an immediate connection with any character. Just like I am not immediately friends with somebody in real life. Gotta hang with them for a bit and likewise, I gotta spend a little time with a character before I am connected with them. But that's me. I don't know if people connect with my characters "immediately" or not. IMO, it's a subjective thing to connect with a character.
     
  5. Ohlookabirdy!
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    Ohlookabirdy! Member

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    [/COLOR]Many thanks all! And yes, here's your mango.

    I got the feeling it was a generic reply as well, and the finished product, after two drafts, clocked out at 56k words. I will probably revisit it after I give it some time to stew. In the meantime- ICE CREAM!

    (I'm not terribly devastated by this, if you haven't noticed yet :D )
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You may not establish a strong connection right away, but there are things you can do early on to establish some empathy on the part of the reader, and to make the reader want the character to succeed. One way is start with the character in a situation where readers are likely to sympathize. There are a number of possibilities - the character is being bullied, or demonstrates a kindness, or saves an animal, etc. These are just examples - it could be anything really, but the point is that you can very quickly establish as least some emotional bond between the reader and character.

    Developing that initial bond into something more takes time. But many writers never really develop it at all, and the problem with that is that it makes it hard to ratchet up the tension in the story. If the reader doesn't care whether the character succeeds or fails, there is no tension in anticipation of the failure or success.
     
  7. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    Show your readers what kind of emotional situation the character is in. Once you let someone see your character's vulnerability, your readers can empathize with them, and begin to understand - and possibly like - the character they see. Whether someone likes this character or not is irrelevant - the understanding and the connection is already there.
     
  8. CULLEN DORN
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    CULLEN DORN Member

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    Depends on what the subject matter is. Otherwise it might take
    some time for a character to develop and grow on its readers.
    But I think the trick to hooking your readers lies in the opening
    sentence of your book. Check out some examples below:

    "A screaming comes across the sky." - Gravity's Rainbow (1973)


    "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." - 1984


    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." - A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    at 56k it's too short for an adult novel, so is it a YA?... and why are you submitting to publishers instead of querying agents?
     
  10. Show
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    I might as well join the party as I got my first rejection via email last night. (Ironically only hours after I queried. xD I still haven't heard back from the ones I queried almost 2 months ago. lol) Mine wasn't nearly as helpful. lol But I guess I at least don't have to try and figure out what the problem was.

    But 56K is small for an adult novel. Is it really aimed at an adult market?
     
  11. Ohlookabirdy!
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    Ohlookabirdy! Member

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    Congrats, Show! I guess that means you get a candle with your cake :p

    And the reason it was so short was because the publisher actually listed their criteria as between 30 and 60k words for freelance writers (it's an e-publishing company).
     
  12. Show
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    Woot! I get a candle! :D

    Ah, okay, that makes sense. Still, and this is coming from somebody unpublished who probably knows nothing about the business, I would think that when it comes to publishing a novel at least, that it would be better to find a publisher/agent whose criteria matches your writing rather than trying to write a novel to match their criteria. It's one thing if there's a fairly general industry standard or at least a pretty commonplace number (such is the case with the 80K thing). But if the specifications are kind of unusual, it might be best to not let them dictate the size of your novel. Obviously, if they reject you, you either gotta rework the novel to adjust the length or search to find another agency with the same unusual length requirements. Anyway, that's just my take. Probably silly cause it's uninvited. xD So I guess I apologize if it comes off as pushy, especially considering I'm just another outsider without any publishing success. lol
     
  13. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Anytime a rejection comes with a critique, you should give it careful consideration. Personally, if I couldn't immediately see why the comment was made, I would ask people who have read the story why they think the critique was given. If you can find something to improve because of the critque, the rejection is so much more valuable.
     
  14. lostinwebspace
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    Maybe try a death in the family--a brother or a child--or some way of making the reader sympathize. A sob story. Don't overdo it, though, or it distances the reader because of the melodrama.

    Anytime a rejection comes with a critique, you should throw a party. Frankly, they only give critiques to authors they see potential in.
     
  15. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    Note that 'reader-character connection' doesn't necessarily have to be a positive connection.

    If you can establish the reader's anger or fear of the antagonist early on, that's just as effective. Or, indeed, if your MC isn't very likeable (i.e. Thomas Covenant), you'd still be expected to produce a reaction from the reader in the first few pages.

    Actions speak louder than words in this situation. "He was a nasty man," doesn't really cut it, whereas, "He flung open the door, kicked the cat out of the way and flicked snot at the pictures of his three ex-wives which sat folornly on the mantlepiece like babes on the altar awaiting sacrifice," produces an immediate reaction of dislike.
     
  16. Croga
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    Croga Member

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    Sorry to hi-Jack this, but this has aroused my interest.
    What if your Character is barely present for the first two chapters?
    Since my Antagonist and Protagonist are morally corrupt I used a third perspective of a sympathetic victim to open the story directly winning sympathy for her and hopefully by proxy hate towards my antagonist, but rolling on the third chapter my MC has not really been a stand out and obvious hero and so far has only been noticed in beating the Antagonist with a fire poker after killing his wife.
    I'm 8600 or so words in is this too long to wait before establishing the Protagonist.
    To avoid all confusion every other potential Protagonist is going to die, but would this fall under the not having a reader connection.
     
  17. Show
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    ^^^^I am sure many will say yes but I say not necessarily. It's all how you write it.
     
  18. TobiasJames
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    TobiasJames Contributing Member

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    Croga, see the second paragraph of my reply.

    So long as you're building the story in the first two chapters and it's pushing the plot forwards, it's fine not to introduce your principal character until later. I agree with what the publishers have said in relation to the thread starter's story, though, that you need some sort of emotional reaction to one of the characters right from the get-go.
     
  19. TobiasJames
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    Browser error resulted in a double post.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like your protagonist is the sympathetic victim, even though that's not your intention. If your reader makes their connection with her, I think that there's likely to be resistance to a later attempt to switch their focus to someone else.

    Does the victim stick around through the whole story, or is she a throwaway character? If she's a throwaway, people are likely to be particularly annoyed at investing in her and then discovering that she doesn't really matter.

    ChickenFreak
     
  21. Croga
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    Chickenfreak She is the eventually love interest of the MC.
     
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