Showing posts with label character identification. Show all posts
Showing posts with label character identification. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 30

4 Ways To Get An Audience To Love Your Story

4 Ways To Get An Audience To Love Your Story

At first I was going to call this post, "How to establish character identification," but that sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry.

Why do we want our readers to identify with our characters? For me it's because I want them to hang on every word the way kids around a campfire breathlessly listen to a well-told ghost story.

We establish that kind of dramatic tension by crafting characters readers care about.

Why do we keep turning the pages at 3 am when we've got an early meeting? Because we have to know what happened. Why do we care? Because we care what happens to the characters.

How To Establish Character Identification

1. Sympathy

As writers, we need to connect the reader's emotions to the story and one way to do this is to get them to sympathize with, to feel sorry for, a character.

How do we do this? Show your character experiencing a loss, a setback. An undeserved loss works especially well. For instance, a character might lose his job because of something that wasn't his fault. His wife might die in a car accident while she was shopping for his birthday present.

2. Empathy

When a reader feels empathy for a character she feels the emotions that character feels.

Here's the key. Over and over I've heard writers say: If you feel the emotion when you're writing the scene, the reader will feel it.

When writing these scenes:
- show don't tell
- use sensory detail from at least two senses.

3. Similarity of goals

Fundamentally, we all want the same sorts of things. I'm not talking about low level goals like cream for your coffee and no traffic on the way to work--though that would be awesome! I mean high level goals like the desire to be treated fairly and with respect.

If a character is denied one of these fundamental goals--some would call them fundamental rights--that's something a reader can identify with.

4. Inner conflict

Inner conflict occurs when a character has competing desires.

For instance, lets say that our hero is a upstanding lawman whose job is to catch the villain. Further, let's say you've done a glorious job illustrating how totally despicable the villain is.

Our hero is in love with Martha, someone who is as good as the villain is despicable. Or so he thinks. It turns out Martha is the villain. Perhaps the hero finds something, some clue, and everything falls together as he looks at it. Martha is in the room, she watches the play of emotions across our hero's face as everything comes together. The hero looks at Martha, the realization of her guilt in his eyes.

Or something. If that sort of scene is done right the play of conflicting desires will ooze with dramatic tension and the reader will be caught up in your fictional world/web.

Also, notice that not only does the hero achieve his goal--he discovers the identity of the villain--but we learn something about him. Is the hero the kind of person to let the villain go because he loves Martha? Or, like Sam Spade, will he refuse to "play the sap" for anybody? Either way, his character is revealed through his choice.

(Also see: How To Get Your Readers To Identify With Your Main Character for a slightly different take on this issue.)

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Yesterday I mentioned that I've been going through boxes of my old notes and found some great material, that's were this came from as well.

Question: How do you get readers to identify with your characters? 

Other articles you might like:

- 3 Steps To Better Prose
- Book Design: What NOT To Do
- Cliffhangers

Photo link: "Wet Lorikeet" by aussiegall under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, April 17

3 Ways To Create An Antihero Your Readers Identify With

3 Ways To Create An Antihero Your Readers Identify With

Yesterday I asked a friend what kind of short story I should write next. He thought about it for a moment and said, "Why don't you write something from the bad guy's perspective?"

At first I was like, Heck ya! That would be fun!

Then it hit me: how could I get a reader to identify with the bad guy? After all, they're the bad guy. We root for the protagonist, in part, because the antagonist is so horrible we want the other guy to win.

It's a problem.

The Villain As Hero

A few days ago Joel Jenkins sent me a link to his article, Writing Unrepentant Characters in which he discussed the challenges of using an antihero.

An antihero is ...

No, not anteater. Though having an anteater as a protagonist would be cool.

Here's Wikipedia's take on what an antihero is:
An antihero ... is a protagonist who has no heroic virtues or qualities (such as being morally good, idealistic, courageous, noble, and possessing fortitude), blurring the line between hero and villain. (Antihero, Wikipedia)
Writing a story that had an antihero for a protagonist could be refreshingly different. It could be surprising and interesting, and both those things are the opposite of boring.

Which is good.

But here's the problem: how are we going to get a reader to identify with our protagonist if they're no better than the villain?

(How to get your readers to identify with your protagonist)

In her article, The Flip Side: Writing Villain Protagonists, Liz Bureman puts her finger on the problem. She writes:
We’re used to rooting for our protagonists. The easiest way to get an audience behind your character is to give them a moral compass that consistently points toward good.
So how are we going to get an audience behind a character whose moral compass consistently points toward evil?

(Jim Butcher on how to build a great villain)

I think there are three ways we can do this.

1. Evil is skin deep

This kind of an antihero (arguably) isn't really an antihero, they're more like a misunderstood hero.

Yes, they have terrible manners and, sure, they don't know how to talk to people without deeply offending them (Monk, Holmes from Sherlock) but, deep inside, they're a good person.

Or at least they're not bad.

Perhaps they don't love everyone, but at least they love someone. That makes them human enough to identify with.

What makes it possible for a reader to identify with this kind of antihero is that: 

a) They aren't really evil.

The traits that mark the hero as different, that make him or her an outcast, are superficial. Sherlock Holmes knows he is smarter than everyone else, with the possible exceptions of Moriarty and possibly his brother Mycroft. And he doesn't in the least care what people less intelligent than him think.

Except for Dr. John Watson.

And his landlady Mrs. Hudson.

And Irene Adler.

And ...

He actually does care ... at least in certain circumstances.

b) The antihero has a redeeming trait.

I think (a) and (b) overlap. Holmes' redeeming trait is his love for Watson. We're not exactly sure what kind of love it is, but it's there and it's enough to make him (somewhat, marginally) relatable.

2. Lesser Of The Two Evils: The enemy of my enemy is my friend

Here we have what I think of as a 'true' antihero. He's (or she's) not just socially awkward--perhaps made so because he has an amazing and unusual ability (a gift and a curse)--he's the kind of person who would kill you if the money was right, and it wouldn't bother him in the least.

What makes it possible for a reader to identify with this kind of antihero is that:

He is fighting someone worse, and that someone worse wants to kill characters you identify with.

Also, the antihero often has the admirable (or minimally decent) quality of not going back on his word, though perhaps for him it is a mark of professionalism rather than morality.

Whatever the reason, if you make a deal with him to kill the bigger 'big bad' then you can be sure ... okay, relatively sure ... he won't turn around and kill you when he's done.

Though if you don't pay him he probably will. Nothing personal.

Examples: Riddick from The Chronicles of Riddick.  Also, possibly, Hannibal Lecter.

3. Familiarity Makes The Heart Grow Fonder/Shared suffering

For me this is the trickiest category.

Imagine someone irredeemable. He's evil. Heck, evil people think he's evil.

And you've had to spend years together.

Perhaps you're in the same cell together. Perhaps he's your dad. It doesn't matter why, the essential thing is that you've shared a lot of time together.

He's saved you a few times (for completely self-serving reasons, but still) and you've saved him a few times (perhaps because he keeps you alive and you like being alive).

Shared experience--repeated exposure to the same person--can build a bond.

Yes, sure, if this person is continually rude to you, insufferable to be around, no bond will form. You'll go to bed each night dreaming of pressing the button that ends the evil so-and-so's life.

But let's say they're not rude to you, that they watch your back, that they're there for you. They're a friend to you. Not to anyone else, but to you.

If you could communicate that in a story, then perhaps a reader could identify with this kind of protagonist.

What makes it possible for a reader to identify with this kind of antihero is that:

- They're polite. I know that probably sounds odd. But if a character has no other redeeming qualities I think they have to be marginally polite, at least to folks who don't disrespect them (Hannibal and Barney).

- Mutual need. The antihero is protective of another person, not because he likes them but because either he needs them or because of his particular pathology. Hannibal was decent to Barney because Barney respected Hannibal. But if Barney had slipped up, Hannibal would likely have still eaten his nose.

Also, Hannibal liked Clarice Starling (in part) because he reminded her of his sister. In the book, Hannibal, we learn that Hannibal thinks that, in an odd and very crazy way, Clarice is his sister. He doesn't kill Clarice--instead he remakes her personality--because it ties in with his pathology.

Example: In Supernatural Dean Winchester befriended a vampire when he was in purgatory.

This is something I'm still thinking about, feeling my way through.


I'm curious, have you ever written a story with an antihero? If so, what kind of antihero did you use? Would you do it again?

Other articles you might like:

- Publish Your Own Magazine On Flipboard!
- How To Write Episodic/Serialized Fiction
- Larry Brooks On The Structure Of Short Stories

Photo credit: "Project 50 - Day #6 (Midnight)" by seanmcgrath under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, January 10

Connect With Readers' Emotions: How To Make People Cry

How To Connect With Our Readers' Emotions: How To Make People Cry

Yesterday I talked about how Chuck Wendig writes a novel. Chuck gave great advice, but one point in particular stayed with me: make your characters compelling.

What we as writers want, the goal, is to reach through our prose and connect with our readers, our audience, emotionally. Or intellectually. But chances are we won't be able to do anything with their minds unless we've got their hearts.

But how do we do this? How do we reach out to our readers through words and move them to laughter, to tears. How do we make them joyful or sad?

(And I suppose this raises the question: What effect DO we want our stories to have on our audience? How do we want to leave our readers? Filled with happiness over a long lost love rekindled or terrified out of their wits, hiding under bed covers, scared to use the loo because they don't want a clown to eat them? [That makes me sound bitter about reading It, but it truly was one of my favorite books!])

Here's what I'd like to talk about today: How to make someone cry.

I know that sounds mean! And I'm not mean, I'm nice. Really! But I think of these blog posts as writing 101--this isn't creme brulee it's bread pudding. We're looking at the basics.

I think one of the easiest emotions to evoke is sympathy, sympathy aroused by an injustice.

Let's talk about how to build character identification, what sorts of character traits we'll need, what sort of trials and tribulations we'll need, if we want to move our readers to shed tears.

1. Give The Reader A Chance To Get To Know Your Character

Don't be too quick to put your character in jeopardy. Build some character identification first. Marg McAlister in Make Your Readers Cry writes:
You've probably been advised many times to plunge the reader into the story right away. Start at the point of change. Dive into the action; involve the reader.

This is good advice - to a point.

I've read far too many books (published and unpublished) in which the author has begun with Something Bad happening to the main character. The idea is to get the reader hooked from the first sentence. Oh my goodness... how will Jane get out of this?

The bad news is, it doesn't always work. And almost always, the reason it doesn't work is because we're reading about strangers. To become really involved you have to 'become' the viewpoint character. Then you will feel her pain!

2. Slow Down And SHOW, Don't Tell

This point is about pacing. Sometimes you want to move the reader quickly from one scene to another. No one wants to sit beside your protagonist as she drives to the corner store to pick up some milk, but we (ghoulish readers that we are!) would like to be there for the holdup she'll walk in on.

This applies especially when we're writing about something sad that we want to focus the readers attention on. Jody Hedlund in Creating Characters that Make Readers Cry writes:
Slow down and show. In those especially charged scenes, I slow down the action and I take the lens of my mental camera and zoom on specific details and emotions. This isn’t the time for a panoramic or big picture shot. This is the time for a close up. I point my camera around the scene trying to capture the heartache in ways that SHOW the emotion and tension I'm trying to convey. 

3. Go Primal

In order to make readers care we have to tap into primal desires. In Save The Cat, Blake Snyder writes:
You say “father” and I see my father. You say “girlfriend” and I see my girlfriend. We all have ‘em — and it gets our attention because of that. It’s an immediate attention-getter because we have a primal reaction to those people, to those words even! So when in doubt, ground your characters in the most deep-seated imagery you can. Make it relevant to us. Make it something that every caveman (and his brother) will get.

Make it, say it with me now…primal!
Blake Snyder's quotation is by way of Therese Walsh's article, How to make readers cry, in six steps.

Has anyone ever cried when reading your prose? Have you ever cried when you wrote, or when you later read what you wrote?

Other articles you might like:

- Chuck Wendig On Writing: How He Writes A Novel
- The Starburst Method: The Hero's Journey, Part 3
- The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings

Photo credit: "Untitled" by seyed mostafa zamani under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, January 1

The Magic Of Stephen King: An Analysis Of The Opening Paragraphs Of The Dead Zone

The Magic Of Stephen King: An Analysis Of The Opening Paragraphs Of The Dead Zone

I loved The Dead Zone by Stephen King. I read the novel, watched the movie and then, much later, the TV series starring Anthony Michael Hall.

What's that advice writers are always given? We are urged to read the best, read what works. I shared a quotation of Stephen King's yesterday and one part of it stayed with me. King wrote that
[R]eading offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn't, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. (Stephen King, On Writing)
As I mentioned the other day in my post (The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings) the hallmark of Stephen King's writing (for myself) was its ability to (metaphorically) grab me by the throat in the first few paragraphs and drag me, at times kicking and screaming, through the novel.

I say 'kicking and screaming' (this is along the lines of the confession of a deep, dark, secret) because I don't like horror! Well, no, that's not true. What I don't like is a certain kind of horror, the nails on a chalk-board kind of psychological horror that Stephen King so masterfully produced in, for example, Misery.

I loved Misery. I read it cover to cover in a couple of days and then never read another King book for years. I was too scared!

Think about that. Stephen King got me to identify with John Smith so strongly I spent upwards of 8 hours of my life reading something that genuinely horrified me, and not in a good way. That, ladies and gentleman, is character identification on steroids. (Stephen King is also a master at generating narrative drive. See: Writing: The Starburst Method, Part 8: The Rough Draft & Narrative Drive)

So now to the question: How does Stephen King do it?

An Analysis Of Stephen King's The Dead Zone

I know I've been talking about Misery, and I will get to that analysis one day soon, but today I'm going to discuss The Dead Zone.

The question: How does Stephen King do it? How does he create that kind of Krazy Glue-like attraction, that bond, between the reader and his creations? His characters?

A few days ago I analyzed King's book, It, and, in that post, mentioned Michael Hauge's 5 ways to create character identification and attempted to use Michael's categories to analyze how King was able to weave his magic. If you're unfamiliar with Michael's 5 ways or what I mean by character identification, you might want to take another peek at it: How To Get Your Readers To Identify With Your Main Character.

The text: the first three paragraphs of The Dead Zone

By the time he graduated from college, John Smith had forgotten all about the bad fall he took on the ice that January day in 1953. In fact, he would have been hard put to remember it by the time he graduated from grammar school. And his mother and father never knew about the fall at all.

They were skating on a cleared patch of Runaround Pond in Durham. The bigger boys were playing hockey with old taped sticks and using a couple of potato baskets for goals. The little kids were just farting around the way little kids have done since time immemorial--their ankles bowing comically in and out, their breath puffing in the frosty twenty-degree air. At one corner of the cleared ice two rubber tires burned sootily, and a few parents sat nearby, watching their children. The age of the snowmobile was still distant and winter fun still consisted of exercising your body rather than a gasoline engine.

Johnny had walked down from his house, just over the Pownal line, with his skates hung over his shoulder. At six, he was a pretty fair skater. Not good enough to join in the big kids' hockey games yet, but able to skate rings around most of the other first graders, who were always pinwheeling their arms for balance or sprawling on their butts.
I usually don't use extensive quotations but since we're examining Stephen King's writing it helps to have the text before us.

First paragraph

In the first paragraph Stephen King starts introducing what I'm going to call "The Threat". I'll talk more about this in another post, but I'm fairly sure that some version of The Threat appears in most of his stories. In The Dead Zone we learn of a 'bad fall'. That we're hearing about this in the first paragraph and that King spends the entire paragraph on it tells us this is something important.

So what is paragraph two about? That's right! The fall.

Stephen King doesn't tell us in the first paragraph that the fall is a terrible thing but, well, it's a bad fall and, besides, when are falls ever a good thing? King does a lot of work in this first paragraph. We hear about The Threat right away, first thing, and we know who The Threat endangers: John Smith.

Second paragraph

Another thing I've found in most of Stephen King's stories is vulnerability. There is a threat and he introduces us to characters who are vulnerable. In It the paper boat was vulnerable to the water it sailed on just as the little child was vulnerable to the conditions the storm left in its wake.

In the second paragraph of TDZ King starts to build up our picture of the child John Smith once was by telling us about his world. Look at his language:

- bigger boys
- little kids
- old taped sticks
- potato baskets for goals
- their [the little kids] ankles bowing comically in and out

The language is nostalgic. "Remember when we were kids?" he is saying. Even myself--I never skated on pond ice and rarely skated in a rink and never, ever, took part in a game of hockey--I can picture this. I wish I had been there.

King's language is vivid. Evocative. I've seen the scene he's painting/creating. It's true that I never did any of those things but I'd seen kids out on the ice, even wished I was one of them. So I guess one reason it's easy for me to identify with this nostalgic vision of yesteryear is that I'd like this to be true/real. I'd have liked my childhood to have been like this.

Third paragraph

Now we're tying things together. The first thing I'd like you to notice is the first word of this sentence. Stephen King is no longer talking/writing about "John Smith" he's writing about "Johnny".

Also notice there has been a considerable amount of movement. The first paragraph--the feeling, the mood--was detached. Almost distant. Then we got all sticky and nostalgic about 'the way it was' and now SK is showing us the protagonist again, but we're not seeing John Smith, we're seeing Johnny. We're seeing the protagonist when he was an innocent child before anything bad happened to him, the child living in this lovely nostalgic world.

The second and third paragraphs show the child, and the child's world, before The Fall. (Now that I've written the words, I realize again how powerful imagery can be.)

- Johnny is a "pretty fair skater". He's "able to skate rings around most of the other first graders."

Recall that one of Michael Hauge's 5 points was to make your character good at something. And not just anything, something--a skill--that is valued in the character's world. If your character is a football player and he's great at chess it's not going to help!

Also, notice that Stephen King maintains--perhaps even steps up--building his evocative, nostalgic, image of childhood. King writes that the other first graders "were always pinwheeling their arms for balance or sprawling on their butts". Now THAT I remember! I remember ice rinks and being bundled up in layers of winter clothes until I looked like the original Michelin Man--and I had about the same mobility! At least the falls didn't hurt as much.

What Does This All Mean?

I'd like to stress that what I've done here, the analysis I've made of Stephen King's work, isn't meant to be in any way authoritative. If you agree with something I've said and you think it may make your writing stronger then that's wonderful! Use it. But if you don't, or if you see something completely different, then go with that.

I do think reading great writing, writing that moves you, and then attempting to analyze what it was about the writing that created that effect in yourself, can help a writer become better at her craft. Perhaps in the final analysis it's the only thing that can.

But everyone, every single person, is different. What I find emotionally compelling might not seem so to you, what turns me into the proverbial puddle of tears may leave you cold.

That's why it's important for each of us to read what works for us, as well as what doesn't, and then examine each story to see why the one gripped us emotionally and the other didn't.

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Who is your favorite writer? What is it about their prose that hooks you? That produces that can't-put-it-down quality which drags you, willing or not, through the book?

Other articles you might like:

- The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings
- How To Sell Books Without Using Amazon KDP Select
- Edward Robinson And How To Sell Books Using Amazon KDP Select

Photo credit: "Stephen King" by robbophotos under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, December 28

The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings

The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings

How To Grab Your Reader In The First Few Paragraphs

I've been reading Stephen King's work since I was 17. Before King, I'd never read a horror story. Back then I had a reading buddy. We would read the same book and then get together for coffee and talk about it. She loved Stephen King's writing and I discovered I did too.

Every few months I pull out one of Stephen King's books, read the first page or so, and try to figure out how he did it. How, after only 3 or 4 paragraphs, he makes me care about his protagonist. She (or he) feels a bit like me, or at least someone I know and love.

It was a no-brainer that the article How To Start A Story The Stephen King Way would stand out like a burning candle in a dark room. It's a good article, but (for what it's worth!) here's my take: Stephen King grabs the reader early by saving the cat.

If you've never heard that expression let me explain.

Importance Of Character Identification

Screenwriters have great terms for plot elements: hanging a lantern, a MacGuffin, and so on. My favorite is: Save the cat.

Blake Snyder explains it this way: In older movies there was a scene early on that was intended to get the audience to identify with the protagonist. In a few early movies this was accomplished by having the protagonist save a cat.
The title Save the Cat! is a term coined by Snyder and describes the scene where the audience meets the hero of a movie for the first time. The hero does something nice—e.g. saving a cat—that makes the audience like the hero and root for him. According to Snyder, it is a simple scene that helps the audience invest themselves in the character and the story, but is often lacking in many of today's movies.  (Blake Snyder, Wikipedia)
While movies no longer have save the cat scenes the term is a reminder that we should make our protagonists--if not exactly likable--easy to identify with.

That's what Stephen King is great at--well, one of the things--making his readers identify with his protagonists right from the first couple of paragraphs. It's as though King's mantra is: Grab them early and don't let go.

At this point I'd like to do two things. First I want to talk about, in general, how to get your readers to identify with your protagonist and then I want to look at three of Stephen King's books and examine how he did it, how he implemented the general pointers we just discussed.

By the way, I don't mean to suggest that Mr. King did any of this consciously, that he had these five points before him and said, "Hmm, I'm going to have to create some character identification." My guess is that he has, like all great storytellers, internalized these elements.

Ready? Let's go!

How To Build/Create Character Identification

This is from the video Michael Hauge did with Christopher Vogler, The Hero's 2 Journeys, a few years ago. I've taken these points from a previous article I wrote on this topic (See: How To Get Your Readers To Identify With Your Main Character).

 Michael holds that there are 5 ways to create an identification between your audience and your protagonist:

1. Make your character sympathetic

- Your character is in love. When I see two people walking down the sidewalk with silly grins on their faces holding hands, I can't help but smile.

- Your character is the victim of an undeserved misfortune. Your character has suffered a brutal setback, something terrible happened to them, something they didn't deserve. Perhaps they lost a spouse or child.

2. Make your character funny

- We like to be around people who make us laugh. We're drawn to them.

3. Make your character likable

How do you do this? For pointers, watch any movie Tom Hanks as been in.
- Show that the character is liked by other characters in the story.
- Show what a great guy or gal your character is. If he has a lot of money then he shares his home, and his gadgets, with his friends, he helps his friends get better jobs, perhaps he helps someone down on their luck send their child to college. Perhaps he helps someone he doesn't particularly care for, and he does it anonymously, because he doesn't want that person's child to go without.

4. Put your character in jeopardy

Your character could lose something of immense importance to them. Perhaps it is their child, their job, their family's farm. They are vulnerable.

A character I think of here is Butch Coolidge (played by Bruce Willis) from Pulp Fiction. What is the one thing he refused to be without? His father's watch. That told me lot about Butch and made me root for him.

5. Make your character powerful

Your character is very good at whatever it is he does for a living. Perhaps they're a great car salesman, or a superhero, or the top master vampire. They have knowledge and strength and they know how to use both.

The secret of character identification

Michael Hauge maintains that in order to get your audience to identify with your character you have to use at least two of the above.

Character Identification In Action, Stephen King Style

Okay, now let's look at how the master of horror gets his readers to identify with his characters.

Stephen King's It

This book scared the pants off me when I was a teen. It turned visiting the loo in the middle of the night into a spine-tingling, heart pounding, adventure. My body felt like it was on a car slowly being pulled up the first hill of a roller coaster. I inched toward the top ready for the gut-twisting rush to the bottom.

It was great.

How'd he do it? That book hooked me from the first couple of paragraphs, so here they are:
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years--if it ever did end--began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

The boat bobbed, listed, righted itself again, dived bravely through treacherous whirlpools, and continued on its way down Witcham Street toward the traffic light which marked the intersection of Witcham and Jackson. The three vertical lenses on all sides of the traffic light were dark this afternoon in the fall of 1957, and the houses were all dark, too. There had been steady rain for a week now, and two days ago the winds had come as well. Most sections of Derry had lost heir power then, and it was not back on yet.

A small boy in a yellow slicker and red galoshes ran cheerfully along beside the newspaper boat.
Here's my take on how Stephen King did it. Yours may differ and that's great. Please let me know what you think in the comments. :)

King's character is in jeopardy

King opens by talking about the terror. A nameless, faceless terror that begins with a newspaper boat floating down a gutter overflowing with rain water, a boat tended by a small boy who runs cheerfully beside the boat. The description of him in a "yellow slicker and red galoshes" makes him (to me at least) seem adorable.

Young, small, adorable. Something to be protected. And this is where the terror began. A cute, vulnerable, child in grave danger. That's interesting. That's a character I can quickly identify with.

King's character is likable

The two go together: having a likable character in jeopardy. We don't want this adorable child to come to harm as he splashes along in the rain beside his toy. But we know there's a nameless terror and this is the start of a horror story.

That book--It--sucked me in and wouldn't let me go for a whole week! Because of it I've spent many nights sleeping with the the light on.

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I also wanted to talk about The Dead Zone and Misery, but it looks like I've run out of space! (I'm trying to keep each of my posts under 1,000 words.) In case you'd like to do this on your own I've included links to both books.

Read the first two or three paragraphs and see which of Michael Hague's 5 ways Stephen King uses to get the reader to identify with his character. (Again, I don't mean to suggest Stephen King is doing this consciously.)

Other articles you might like:

- Should A Writer Let Her Reader's Expectations Influence Her Artistic Judgement?
- Writing in 2013: Bend don't break
- Merry Christmas! Giving Your Stories As Gifts

Photo credit: "0258" by Cia de Foto under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.