Tag s | Craft

Beyond the Hook: What Makes Your Reader Care?

Any book lover who’s made the hobby of reading a lifelong habit can name stories that kept him reading well past anything else – dinner, chores, bedtime…

What makes this happen?

The Problem

Sympathetic characters can help as a start, but while they serve to draw in a reader, the story’s dilemma itself keeps the reader engaged. The reader can’t put the book down until the characters solve the problem.

First, though, the conundrum has to be intriguing. The stakes must be high. The characters must have everything to lose if the problem isn’t solved. For example:

  • If I marry the wrong man, my life will be miserable forever.
  • If we don’t solve this murder, more innocents will die.
  • We must keep the villain from ruining all our lives.

The sympathetic character causes the reader to care. When the reader stops caring about the characters, then the reader no longer cares if, when, or how the problem is solved. Hence, all things work together for the most successful book.

Granted, flat characters serving as a conduit for solving a problem can work, but will the reader remember those characters and their solutions once the book is closed? One of my vivid memories of characters is literally dreaming about them as I slept, so engrossed was I in a Susan Howatch book. The ability to combine memorable characters solving problems readers care about separates a good writer from an astounding talent.

Your turn:

 Can you name an author who combines sympathetic characters with intriguing problems to solve?

What work of fiction stuck with you long after you read it?

What character did you think about long after you read a book?

Leave a Comment

Edgy Christian Fiction

In Christian fiction, how do we balance keeping the message strong/not watering it down while still wanting to reach readers beyond Christian bookstores or churches? Thank you Carrie for a great question. This has been an ongoing discussion ever since Christian Fiction became a significant part of the publishing landscape in …

Read More

Time to Play!

As I was considering what to write for this week’s blog, I realized I needed a break from all the seriousness of the last few weeks. Not that I don’t love the “conversations” and insights everyone has shared. But, at the core, I’m a golden-retriever kinda gal, and I gots …

Read More

Contrived is a Four-Letter Word

Few things irritate fiction readers more than a story peopled by characters who act and react without any apparent reason for what they’re doing and saying. No reason, that is, except to illustrate the author’s message. Or prove the author’s point. Well, you say, don’t we all have a message …

Read More

The Unintentionally Funny Headline

I came across the following headline in a recent publisher-related newsletter: “Speculative Authors Fight Mental Illness” I thought to myself “I know what they meant by the headline, but could it also be interpreted that authors who write speculative fiction are mentally ill?” There are some who call science fiction and fantasy writers …

Read More