So, over the summer I had the great fortune of celebrating my Aunt and Uncle’s 50th Wedding Anniversary aboard a yacht. Yes, a yacht. It was a dinner cruise in the Boston Harbor, not a week long jaunt in the Riviera, but hey, it was still a YACHT. And it was definitely as dreamy as it sounds.
The ship was beautiful, a perfect setting for an evening sail with an even more perfect backdrop in the harbor. The air felt warm against the setting sun as the water shimmered around us. Waiters with drinks and appetizers tempted us at every turn, and later after dinner, as we danced the night away, the city lights twinkled in the background.
In a word, the night was breathtaking. But even in all of its splendor, the things that stand out in my mind from that night are the amazing conversations I had with family I haven’t seen in ages. I could call them relatives—that’s what aunts and uncles and cousins and cousins’ children are after all, right? But these people that I haven’t seen in so many years are much more than that. I share a history with them from my childhood, and a history with their children. But, it had been almost ten years since I had seen many of them. 10 years! That’s an eternity. Especially when you genuinely like spending time with them. But distance and life separated all of us and that’s just the way it goes sometimes. So as much as I was looking forward a night aboard a yacht to celebrate my beloved aunt and uncle, I was even more looking forward to reconnecting with my cousins and their kids.
But you know how these family reunion type events go. It’s hard to have a meaningful conversation with so many people around, dragging you from one person to the next. I did however, manage to have a great conversation with one of my cousin’s kids named Cooper about his college experience so far. I definitely expected the conversation to be superficial. He was in middle school the last time I saw him after all. I mean, he barely even knows me! But as we got to talking, he was so genuine and I learned so much from him. He told me all about college life now (well, some of how college life is now!), like his classes and his lacrosse games. But that wasn’t what left the biggest impression on me. It was when he told me how he felt about these things that really brought them to life.
Sure, he could have told me what classes he was taking for his major or how many games his lacrosse team had won. Instead, he told me why he never wanted to go into sales… “because I’m not that person and I hate putting myself out there like that.” He told me why playing a Division 2 sport is better than D1… “It’s still very competitive but I get to play the whole game instead of sitting the bench, and my classes still come first. I know because my brother played D1 and they owned a piece of him. He couldn’t even pick the major he wanted because the classes conflicted with his practice schedule. I didn’t want that to happen to me.”
He gave me the scoop about going to a small college and whether or not he’d pick the same one again. He talked about how bummed he was to have missed a chance to visit his out of town girlfriend over the weekend. He was open about so much and it was great to catch a small glimpse into his life.
Chatting with Cooper got me thinking about writing and why it’s so important to tell the reader what your character is feeling. Sure the event is important. But what’s even more important is how your character reacts to the event and how that event, situation, or conversation makes them feel. Cooper’s descriptions and stories were so real and that’s why I was able to reconnect with him again so easily.
And that’s how your reader will be able to reconnect with your character too.
If he gets yelled at by his coach for not giving 110%, be sure his shoulders slouch and he grumbles under his breath. But also be sure to tell the reader why he’s so upset. Is it his pride? Is it because his twisted ankle is killing him and he thinks the coach is being unfair. Is it because he wishes he could tell the coach that he was up until 1:00am doing homework because he was taking care of his sick mother all night?
By doing so you’re letting the reader feel for your character. That’s one sure way to make your reader feel connected to them as well…and that’s when he or she will want to turn the page and follow your story to the end. I know you’ve probably all heard this before. I know I have. But sometimes it takes an experience, like talking with someone aboard a yacht, to remember!
So have a great week, guys. I’m so looking forward to mine! Today was the first day of school for my son (my daughter is away at college!) and it feels great to be back into a routine and writing again. I hope to be making progress on my WIP soon. For those of you new to the blog, it’s a sequel to my middle grade magical realism story. I’m more than half way through the draft and this Fall I need to finish it!
What are you working on this week? Do tell. Do tell! Leave a comment. I’d love to know who’s out there writing with me!