How I'll Know I'll Have Made It

>> Sunday, September 18, 2011

I'm not talking about being published, though, of course, that would likely have to happen first. And I'm not talking about book sales, though, naturally, that would be nice, too.

But I don't just want to be a successful writer in the monetary sense. I want to write good books, books that touch people with characters that people care about. And I think I know now how to to know when that happens.

I spend odd moments checking on the Skip Beat! forum using my new android phone. It's a nice distraction and I enjoy speculating about what will be happening next in this long-running manga and gushing over it with other enthusiasts. 'Cause, hey, I'm an otaku. But I've discovered something.

You know when characters have really touched people when readers get really really angry defending one over the other or determining who's better at this or that. Star Trek, you find some true fans, start laying into one captain or another and they'll come out swinging.

I've been listening to the talk on the forum, one of the threads all about which of our romantic leads, who both struggled in childhood, had it harder or more painful. The son of the celebrity quietly struggling to live up to his father's regard and dealing with brutal bullying vs. the girl ignored and marginalized by a mother who left her in the care of others most of her life.

We've only seen flashbacks on the two individuals and have some information on the impact each of their pasts have had on them. Both are strong individuals with scars and baggage they are largely working through together. Why in the world would it matter which had it technical harder than the other.

But people get passionate and figuratively shake fists and forgo courtesy, telling anyone who doesn't see it "their" way they're stupid or they aren't reading things, yadda yadda yadda.

I'm not saying I want people to become assholes because they care about the characters in my books, but it says something, something important, that a reader can be passionate about a character, passionate about who they end with , what happens to them, how other fans see the characters they love.

When readers get spun up defending your characters, as a writer it says that you wrote characters that touched people, that pulled out emotion, that mattered to people enough they would defend the fictional histories or personalities traits to other readers.

That's what I want my readers to do. When I have readers fighting among themselves on whether Dylan Chroz or Xander would win the bout on Jeopardy! (which is silly because Dylan would win unless Dante da Silva was playing, what with his 700+ years of experience to draw on). I want people to yell at the book, "Watch out!" or "You bastard!" or "You just made a real mistake, pal."

When people defend the people I've created against other fans, that's when I'll know:

I've done it. I've touched them and made up people that strangers have adopted, loved and identified with.

I'll have done what I set out to do.


  • Shakespeare

    You've hit on the ultimate goal--to make your literature more than just a sales count. When people fight over the significance and (relative) worthiness of characters, that means these characters resonate with them like real people. They have meaning.

    I, more than anything, want my books to be meaningful to people. Not a fluff read that leaves people feeling a great big Meh, but something that they want to read again, something that changes them in some way, just by being the story it is filled with the characters it has.

  • Project Savior

    That is a great feeling when someone argues about your character. I was incredibly happy when one of my critiquers got angry with me because Vivian, my bipolar heroine, went bipolar and started yelling at Howie. They weren't angry because it was out of character or bad, they just didn't like seeing her like that. That's when I knew they were hooked.

  • Anonymous

    My dad wrote me a letter and sent it half way around the world regarding one of my characters. He'd been sat on a transatlantic flight with a work collegue who had looked across and concerned asked him if he was alright. My dad was crying. I'd given him the draft of my novel and amazingly the end had made him cry.

    It doesn't matter that it seems to take forever and I struggle with writing the sentances right if I can create that sort of reaction. It makes it all worthwhile.

  • Relax Max

    You'll make it. I know you will. It may be in Japan, but I know you will make it. :)

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