Without the swell of background orchestra music, or beautiful panoramic camera sweeps, can our writing invoke the same reactions? How? What do you do to connect to your readers? To drill inside of them and hit a nerve?
Here are some things that were present in this movie as well as other movies/books that I've delved into:
1. Dire circumstances where either the best or the worst in the MC comes to the surface (or sometimes both).
2. Truth. Truth resonates with people. I don't need to travel in the belly of a slave ship to know of injustice and I don't have to be the first person to set foot on a new land to feel the excitement of discovery. I am human and if I can't relate to it completely, I can still be swept away by a well crafted story and empathize with the situation -- drawing on my own life experiences to back me up.
3. Humor. In this movie, humor was welcomed like a cool breeze. It's refreshing and sometimes helps us make it to the next painful plot point. Just as in life, I think humor reminds us of who we are ... giving us just enough motivation to move forward, remembering when things weren't so bad, or so hard or so blurry. Just feeling ourselves smile rejuvenates us and connects us to the story(or character).
4. Rock Solid Characters. This is a no brainer. I can honestly say that I have liked nearly every movie/book that I've seen or read where there's a character that I can actually back up and stand behind. As long there is some redeeming quality, something that assures me that there is a goodness or strength about him/her, I can usually stick it out. On the flip side, I can walk away from any movie/book where the characters aren't believable, likable or at the very least, have some shred of common decency. The plot can be out of this world, but if I can't stand in the character's corner, I'm out.
5. Weakness. In writing good characters and plots, I stand by the old saying, Weaknesses are often our Strengths. Every Superman must have his Kryptonite, right? Giving our characters weaknesses adds depth, compassion, risk, and pain to our stories. It also provides the perfect catalyst for change, growth, fighting, and hard earned triumph. I love it when a good read actually brings me to my feet, cheering for the unlikely, but much hoped for triumph of one who was weak, vulnerable and whose situation was utterly hopeless. Does it get better than that?
There are a dozen more ways to bring tears of joy or heartache to the eyes of our readers; Or at the very least, get them biting their nails, hugging a pillow to their tummy or doing some other equally nervous tick as they lend an hour or so of their time to our stories.
I say bag the background music! If we do it right, we can deliver a gut-wrenching, breath-snatching story that will knock our readers socks off! Do any of you have a secret weapon that you use in writing? What do you do to pull the readers in? What gives your stories more authenticity and depth? ???