Emotionally Connecting with Your Readers
I have three go to books on my writing shelf: Story Genius by Lisa Cron featured in my first blog post, Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl and Save The Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody. Yes, I’ve got other writing books, hundreds, but these three are the superheroes, the Avengers, of writing books.
Save The Cat! is about pacing. An expectation, of what will happen when, has been created in readers by television and movies: the sidekick should be introduced in the first quarter of the novel; at the midpoint someone will die; etc. Yes, you can break these rules, if you’re good, very good, but if you follow them, your novel will tend to be more readily accepted by agents and readers alike. The Save the Cat! formula begins with a single scene, an opening image, which should establish an emotional connection between the reader and your protagonist. Below is the opening image to my novel The Dream Seer. Your comments are earnestly solicited. If I don’t get this right, I’ll lose the reader on the first page.
I woke with a Cottonmouth hissing and coiling in my gut. The California sun shone all bright through my window—right into my eyes. Outside, in a tree, a little yellow bird decided to serenade me, chirping out happiness. I pulled the covers over my head.
Dad hadn’t called, not for three days. He always called. We had a standing breakfast Skype appointment. Grandfather would even set place for Dad at the table. If he fixed banana pancakes—Dad’s favorite—he’d make an extra stack and sit them right in front of the computer screen where Dad could see them, just to let Dad know that we were thinking about him.
Dad would look oh-so-longingly at those pancakes and say, “Thanks.”
Grandfather said Dad’s mission had probably gone long or the base was on a communications blackout. Guess that had to be it. I mean, everyone knows that its practically impossible to kill a Navy SEAL. SEALs are the most highly trained soldiers in the whole world.
Big feet moseyed down the hallway and into my room. Grandfather gave my hammock a swing. “Time to get up, sailor.”
Underneath the blanket my hands curled into fists.
“Hmmm…, Grandfather said. “I see.”
I didn’t know what he was seeing, but a lump of covers.
“Would you like to talk?” he asked.
“I’m here for you, son.”
“Don’t you need to be fixing breakfast?”
Through the covers he kissed my forehead. Then his footsteps headed for the kitchen. Soon enough came the sound of whistling and a spoon hitting the side of a mixing bowl.
Ding. Must have been heating syrup in the microwave.
I reckoned it was no use. I had to get up, and I had to go to school. That’s what it’s like when all the men in your family are in the Navy. You grow up knowing you’ve got to follow orders, even if nothing about the world makes you want to be living in it.
Tell me, do you want to read more?
I believe every licensed driver should be issued a traffic dart gun.
His guilt tore them apart
Can the truth set them free?
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