What sparks your passion? Your readers often have the same passion and setting light to it keeps them satisfied and coming back to buy your books.
Decide what it is you want to evoke from your reader. Then fire your own feelings up, surprise yourself. Make yourself love, sing, dance, laugh, cry, grieve, gasp, shudder and scream. Make your heart race. Give yourself goosebumps. Make yourself so angry you want to punch something. Live your story. Feel every emotion as if you are each one of your characters.
Why? Because the odds are high that if you don’t feel those emotions, your readers won’t either. Find that unexpected match that triggers those emotions in yourself and odds are you will trigger them in your reader too.
Don’t you just love this advice? Having problems with your writing? Do whatever it takes to fall back in love with your story. Put your heart and soul into it. There’s nothing like it.
That’s why it’s so hard to cut into the story you love so much. It truly is like killing your darlings as William Faulkner advised. Editing requires a different mindset. Rather than your heart, your head and your intellect must be in charge.
Writers try hard to evoke sympathy for their protagonist(s) from readers, but it’s not easy to make them feel that way for their antagonist as well. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Empathy definitely helps writers and editors, allowing us to understand not only the hopes and dreams of a character, but their deepest fears and motivations. What are their values and beliefs? Why do they make the life choices they do? Having them act ‘out of character’ or without clear, understandable motivation, is a surefire way to drop a reader out of your story, sometimes permanently.
Issues are rarely black and white. It’s been said that there are always at least two or three versions of any incident: your version, my version, and the truth. Yes, maybe that’s not always the case but it illustrates the fact that we don’t always look at issues from all sides.
One of my alltime favourite books about an important issue is Richard North Patterson’s “Balance of Power” which explores the US gun control issue from just about every side of the issue: the shooters, the family of the victim, the sellers, the buyers, the politicians…
Understanding our fellow humans and their viewpoints is important, whether we agree with them or not. There, in the gray area, is where we often find our best story.