Monday, July 12, 2010

The Importance of Being Fleshy

Happy Monday, y'all! I had a very relaxing weekend in which I passed the 10K mark of my WiP, made a huge lasagna, ate Vietnamese soup and po-boys with friends and watched a ton of Friday Night Lights and True Blood. Hope everyone else enjoyed the weekend.

I also did a lot of reading on my new Nook. I love that thing more every day. The new Temeraire novel comes out tomorrow and I've got it ready on my e-wishlist for the release. I can't wait!

Another wonderful feature of the Nook is the ability to download a free sample of a book before you decide to buy it. The samples range in length anywhere from 9-30 pages, and I must have downloaded half a dozen samples this weekend, prologues and all. It's been interesting to look at those beginnings and wonder how close this finished product is to the original material the agent saw potential in.

Some of the samples start more quickly than others, of course. Which seems to be a trend in YA, that the action get started quickly, I mean. The sample of a book I decided to buy did just that, got things rolling really quickly with zombies and mysterious souls. It seemed really exciting, and like it'd shape up to be something fun and hopefully romantic. Problem is, the more I read on, the less interested in the actual story I became. See, the dead bodies weren't the only "zombies". The characters might as well have been, too. They just weren't. . . FLESHY enough.

I'm still not finished, and I'm going to finish, but I'm just not feeling close enough to the characters. Like they haven't been drawn convincingly enough to carry the fantastical things that are happening to them. So now the way the plot is progressing just feels forced and fake to me. No real stakes have been revealed yet, and the motivations of the main characters either aren't all that clear, or border on "too stupid to live" territory.

I know that to the author, the characters felt alive and three-dimensional and their issues and motivations probably felt more real—just like my characters do to me. But somehow that didn't translate to me through the writing. The more I read on, the less of an emotional attachment I feel to the characters.

Not only has this experience led to a case of reader's remorse, it's shown me that no matter how hot your premise is, no matter how cool the plot, the reader still needs to identify with the characters to keep reading until your big plot twist at the end. Because that twist is nothing if the reader doesn't care about the people whose lives are being thrown into chaos.

Making your characters real doesn't stop when the first chapter ends. It's an evolution. They should change with the story, and change each other. They'll be affected by things that remind them of their past. They'll be emotional and angsty when things don't go right, but they'll also be aware of what's happening to them and work toward change. They must be ink made flesh.

Or else your fabulous plot with that amazing twist. . . will be just as insubstantial as your characters. So make 'em fleshy, and make it count!

Or else the corpses rising from the graves won't be the only zombies in your book. ;)

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