Monday, February 21, 2011

Writing from the Heart to Move the Heart

How does one move the heart in fiction? One way is to create memorable characters that we care about. Characters who face conflict, find a way to resolve the conflict, and grow through the experience.

I recently picked up Roger Rosenblatt's Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing. Rosenblatt speaks about digging deep into ourselves to reach the emotions and memories that can turn a good phrase into a memorable phrase. As a writer, I am always looking for, and not always finding, le mot juste. If we are not honest about our own emotions and we write from that lack of honesty, then I think we are cheating our readers.

I just finished several books by a long-time best seller. Why? Because he is a groundbreaker in using a specific theme that I want to exploit for Max 3. He remains anonymous, because in the last two books I read, I didn't give a damn about the protagonist. One's anger management problems were so atrocious that I wanted to kill him off myself. The other protagonist whined his way through 300+ pages.

I got to thinking about why I was disappointed. I've read this writer for years and have liked many of his works. In these last two, he abandoned much of why I read him in the first place.

1. Limited character development, not likeable and didn't grow. He plopped them on page one and didn't do much with them afterwards.
2. Evil bad guys so shallow that you could drive a truck through their wickedness, yet the main characters never saw through them. And in one book, a main character is romatically involved with one of the evil people. He drops out of the story 100 pages before the end. She never knows he's behind the attacks on her ex-husband. Come on.
3. Red herrings left to rot on plates on the table.

I'm done reading this writer. I know what not to do. I know I can continue with the themes I've set out for Max 3. I know I need an antagonist who is flawed and with whom the reader can at least empathize. I need to maintain the likeability of Mad Max. If no one likes her, why bother?

Good lessons from Rosenblatt applied to my "light" reading. Thanks, Mr. Rosenblatt. You are making me a better reader and a better writer.

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