Make Me Cry, Please

How do you choose the books you read?  Do certain authors attract you, making you eager to devour anything they offer?  Do you prefer to read one genre to the exclusion of others?  Does the plot or location of the story influence your decision?

I don’t make every decision about a book purchase based on the reviews, but I do read a few at both ends of the spectrum to understand what readers liked and disliked about those books that catch my interest.  Then I choose to make a purchase or not, based on my own interest in the plot or subject of the book, or the author.

And the most important consideration for me is to feel an emotional connection to the characters or their circumstances.  So I really don’t mind if the author makes me cry.  In fact, I hope she or he will.

We make our strongest connections with people and circumstances that create an emotional response within us.  And we remember those situations far easier than ones that generate only a lackluster response.

Recently, I read a book that garnered dozens of reviews raving about the heart-rending emotional impact of the story.  But I found myself questioning them when, in the most important moments in the plot, the main character told someone else his life story.  Instead of showing the character living these scenes, they became a bland recounting of his journey.  The author’s method of revealing this character’s darkest secrets and pain held the reader at a distance.

In those pages that should have made my heart ache for the character, I felt nothing.  The author didn’t arouse my sympathy for the horrendous losses the character had suffered.  She didn’t allow me into her character’s thoughts when he realized he could not change what was happening.  She didn’t give me permission to share the character’s emotions because she had him tell his story to someone else, without explaining how it impacted him as a person.

I felt cheated by the distance created between myself and the character.

If that book had lived up to the reviews I read, I would have actively searched out more of that author’s work.  Since it didn’t, there’s little chance that I’ll give that author another chance.  There are just too many good books out there to waste my time on something that doesn’t pull me into a deep connection with the characters or their circumstances.

Don’t be afraid to draw your readers deep into your character’s mind and emotions.  Engage your readers’ sympathy and empathy.  Make them cry, and they won’t soon forget your book.  And that’s the impact you want to make on your readers.