“Can you hear me now?”

Cell phones could possibly be the most annoying aspect of our mobile society.  What with their dropped calls, pockets of poor reception and unbreakable contracts.  Every time we leave our home and head north, we cross the ridge.  Inevitably this is about the length of time it takes for DH or me to think of something we NEED to talk to somebody about.

Inevitably poor reception ensues and the calls are dropped after a series of crackly, “Can you hear me now”s.

Sometimes when I pick up a book, my connection is similar.  The characters are crackly, the plot drops away altogether or the contract (my hard earned B&N gift certificate) is too expensive to walk away from it.  Even if the connection is so painful I would rather pluck my armpit hair out with a tweezers than keep reading.

As writers, it is our duty to provide good service.  While we can’t be responsible for all mismatched reception, we still need to strive to make the connections between our words and our readers as strong as possible.  To do anything less is to risk losing our readers–forever.

My DD started reading a book last night, The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore.  She picked it out at the book store over the very busy weekend and didn’t start reading until we were on our way home.  I can tell that Ms. Moore mastered the connection because DD hasn’t put the book down.  She brought it to breakfast this morning and even read it on the five minute ride to school.  That says a lot.

I can’t wait for my turn, when I will have the opportunity to learn what grabbed DD.  Was it the characters, the plot, the romance, the mystery?  What did Moore do to connect with her readers and her story?

While I almost hate to admit it, I’m a shameless reader.  I read virtually anything.  Mystery rocks my socks off, but a bad mystery where the pieces are forced to come together with the antag spilling his guts to the tied-up protag makes me want to rip my toenails out with a plyers. 

Romance is good.  Slutty scenes for the sake of padding a word count make me a little anxious, and I actually skip over the throbbing members to get back to the good stuff.  Too many gratuitious scenes in a row and the connection is irrevocably lost.

Another thing that makes me disconnect is language usage.  It gets tiring to read the firetruck word every other sentence.  To me, this is a big turn off and makes me think the writer is Lazy.  Yep, with a capital L.

So when is the connection strong?  Characters I can relate to.  I don’t like perfect size sixes with gorgeous tresses and curvy curves sans saddle bags.  That’s my biggest curve and I like others to share my pain sometimes.

Characters with a strong voice.  Not loud, but strong.  Ones who experience a wide range of emotions and react realistically to their situations.  I love humor (that’s the main reason I married DH–okay, that and his good looks) and find myself drawn to MC’s who share my sense of the absurd.  Wit and charm go a long way in my book. 

Plot is less important, as I’m as likely to read a chick lit, a western or a techno-thriller as a picture book–and love them all equally.  As long as there is some semblence of realism and continuity.  I just finished a book that was written in the MC’s POV all the way through–except the one small section where the MC was knocked out cold and the details needed to be filled in.  There was a quick POV switch, then back to the MC when he regained his consciousness.  I felt like I had multiple personalities and it made my love for the book drop about three stars.

To all my readers: what types of things make a strong connection between you and the books you read?  What breaks those connections?

To my writers: how do you create a strong connection with your readers?  What types of elements are important to you in creating your fiction?  What do you concentrate on so you’re not constantly wondering “Can you hear me now?”


9 responses to “Connected

  1. I really do not think about it (the connection). It really does not make a difference I write almost exclusively non-fiction. I always strive for honestly. And get rid of anything that gets in the way. Simplicity and clarity. I strive for both. And it helps my wife is a fine editor. No one can do it alone. I know not every person will want to read what I have wrote but hopefully I have struck a chord with someone. Then I have the connection but I do not think directly about it.

  2. I make my connection with the characters. Everything else is secondary. “Unrealism” ticks me off – I like sci-fi and fantasy a lot – but each setting has to have it’s own internal logic. If the book follows that logic, I’m in!

    I tend to get annoyed with overwriting as well – I want it to move and I like to make up my own mind on description. I skip those throbbing members too 🙂

    • Jemi,

      Love the word unrealism. That usually gets my undies in a bunch. I can put up with a lot of stuff if I’m connected to the MC. But major leaps of unreality have the ability to send me over the cliffs of insanity!

  3. I try to find what I connect to in a character and their situation – the character is always the way in for me. Then I start looking for ways that other people around me might connect with it too – because I probably have quite a skewed view of the world.

    • Roz,

      I agree. Character is the door to the story. I don’t care how good the story is (or how poor sometimes) as long as I love the MC.

      You are obviously doing something right with your skewed perspective on life! I think that makes you (and your devoted readers) normal : )

  4. Cat, my daughter just finished a book last night and complained heavily about it this morning. Her gripe? Bad spelling (in dialogue– maybe on purpose??), and made up words that no kid actually uses. I asked her why she kept reading and her response was simply, “Well I read so many pages I was committed to finishing it, but it was sooo bad (Followed by dramatic eye rolls and stomping away.)

    I think it comes down to not connecting with the MC. It’s amazing how much we can learn from our kids and apply it to our own storytelling.

    • TK,

      I think you’re right when you say it comes down to character. It sounds like your daughter is very smart and very reluctant to quit. I empathize, as I don’t stop reading no matter how horrible the book. I figure if I’ve gotten X far, I might as well find out what happens.

      : )

  5. I’ll generally slog my way through anything as a reader. As a writer, I try to make my characters as realistic as possible, and make their interactions with each other real as well. Equally important is flow. I think a writer should try and carry the reader along without having to make him/her flip back in the book to figure something out.

    • Barbara,

      Love this line: I think a wirter should try and carry the reader along without having to make him/her flip back in the book to figure something out.

      I hate when I have to do that! Those “huh, I thought the MC had short hair. How did she get it in a ponytail just now?”

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