Thursday, January 10, 2013

Giving the reader some emotion

If it hasn't become obvious to you, I love The Hunger Games. The whole trilogy. Everything. And upon watching the movie for the fourth time or so, something that bothered me finally clicked as to why it did.

In the book, right after Peeta's reaped, Katniss describes in detail how he saved her life by giving her bread and hope. In the movie, there's a brief flash of the two in the rain, but without context of what's actually going on.

Why does this bother me so much? Because in the book, we're given a strong characteristic as to who Peeta is. We see that he's kind and willing to sacrifice for others (his mom beats him because of what he did). Right away, the readers like Peeta, and the situation of the two going into the games gets more complicated.

In the movie, we get none of that. He's just a boy Katniss will have to fight against. Of course, those who read the books know about the bread, but those who haven't don't care. There's no emotion or connection between the two, and it takes a while to see Peeta's goodness come through the movie. And by then, most people will already have their feelings about him sorted.

This made me think of how important it is for us as writers to set up our character's personalities sooner rather than later. We can make the reader love (or hate, depending) the character with even a sentence, and hopefully within a scene. The bland characters, without their good or bad qualities coming through immediately, won't grasp the reader and then they won't care.

Sure, there are characters you can grow to love/hate, but the sooner the connection the reader has to them, the better. The sooner they'll think to themselves One more page, and get sucked in.

What do you do to make a reader instantly have an emotional reaction to your characters?


  1. This is great stuff. You're totally right, character is key!

  2. I agree. You are right; it is important! I think we need to generate empathy for our characters. Lots to think about, all good stuff. Glad you shared this with us. :)

  3. Awesome post! I like to start off with action. Action speaks louder than words. As it did with Peeta!

  4. That movie was such an epic fail in regard to the Katniss/Peeta dynamic. I liked it overall, I loved the addition of the gamemaker scenes, but Peeta's tragic character arc got the shaft.

  5. Great post!! I missed that in the movie too! They never do give the full story of the Peeta and his bread. He's really a great guy.

    I like to show a part of my character a reader will feel a connection with, usually in an action scene of some sort or a painful memory for the MC.

  6. Interesting question. I guess I try to see them as people in my mind's eye, as if I were watching the react and interact, so if they are believable to me, I hope that they will be to others too. I have yet to read/ see the Hunger Games :O0!

  7. Good point! Without having read THG book, that three second flash doesn't make sense as much. My favorite technique to make readers care comes from Blake Snyder's Save the Cat. Near the beginning of the book, we see the MC do something redeeming (like save a cat in distress). It's a solid device. Have you read the book?


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