I have read many miserable books throughout my life and some – like “Angela’s Ashes” I’ll admit I couldn’t finish – the idea of poor babies wasting away and dying from subsisting on bottles of water and sugar, was just too horrible to comtemplate.
It did sell many copies and won prizes, but I think it is an exception. Most readers want to hear about human and likeable characters, maybe thrust into situations that would try them almost beyond endurance, and how they extricate themselves ultimately for a happy ending. To make readers care about these characters, you have to care about them deeply yourself. In each one, you will find an echoing chord of your own being: the kind of person you are; the kind of things you like; the songs you sang; the jokes you laughed at; your fears; your hopes. By doing this, the emotions will be recognizable as genuine; the longings and appetites and ambitions that might be found in any of us.
Bring them to life by giving them spiritual strength coupled with human flaws, good luck and bad, maybe a bit of cowardice but a greater gift of courage. And everyone needs love in their life … love in the sense that it is the one emotion capable of mounting guard over our natures. That is how readers can enter into their adventures and lose themselves in the story. We all love stories of people under adversity who struggled and ultimately won, to give us courage in our own lives.
When I write a novel, I hope that the reader will follow the travail and strivings of my characters and at the end, will not be quite the same as when he/she started. That is what I did with “The Pomegranate Pendant” (made into a movie under the title “The Golden Pomegranate.”) A historical romance, set in Jerusalem in 1882 when the first Jews left the tyranny of Yemen and fled to Jerusalem, the Holy Land as they called it, the 14-year-old child-bride Mazal and her young husband live through unimaginable difficulties as they try to pursue their dream of freedom for themselves and ultimately their children. That is what I also did in “Esther” (published by HCI in Florida) , a contemporary romance, which does not have a completely happy ending, but what many readers wrote to me to say that it was in a way more satisfying than a traditional ending. That is what I tried to do even in my memoir “My Long Journey Home” which relates my own story and how I finished up leaving Australia my birthplace, to settle in Jerusalem and the gradual overcoming from resentment, to acceptance and finally to delight. And that is what I have done in my forthcoming novella “Autumn Blessing” to be published by Prism Book Group as an e-book in the near future … a romance between a widow and a divorced man, neither still young, and the trials to be overcome with the antagonism of their families to the new union. I was also able to indulge my love of plants by giving it a gardening sub-plot.
For writers, the highest form of flattery comes not from the reviewer, however erudite or complimentary he or she may be, but for the man or woman unknown to you, who enters a bookshop or an online bookstore, finds your book and feels that there may be something in it relevant to their own lives, and actually decides to buy it.
Fashions in fiction come and go, but the storyteller will never become out-of-date. Around ancient campfires, or at court, the jester could make them laugh for a few minutes; but it was the storyteller who had his listeners spellbound, whether he told of heroes who overcame great odds, or lovers whom not even death could part.
Tell a story, the memory of which will resonate with your readers for a long time. Don’t aim for humanity’s lowest instincts with erotica and crude images. Lift them to a higher plane and aim for the heart, where they will close the book with a smile and maybe a few tears.
(I look forward to your comments. If you have difficulty locating any of my 13 books, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to help you locate them.)