Have you heard it said that it’s all about character? Stories, that is. If your readers don’t care about the characters, then all the plot twists, surprise endings and literary gymnastics in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans, sweetheart.
I know I’ve loved a book when I can’t bear to say goodbye to the characters. The first time this happened was when I read Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son. Not his best or best known, but a sentimental favourite because it was my first. Dickens that is. And as I put the book down at the end, I did so slowly. I didn’t want it to be over. I wanted more time with those characters with whom I had fallen in love.
It happened again this morning (at the time of writing) as I put down Stephen King’s It. (Was there ever a more simply named book? Could there be?) Even though the book was over a thousand pages, it wasn’t enough. Mind you, after what those poor characters had been through, they deserved some time off. Still, for a time they had become part of my life and I know I’m going to miss them.
As I start to write more original fiction, that’s what I’m going to shoot for. I know that in genre fiction in particular it seems to be all about the Really Neat Idea, but for me, regardless of the genre, it’s all about character, and I’ll know I’ve done it right when someone tells me they didn’t want to say goodbye.