Favorite Things Friday – The Chills

Have you ever read a book and had that moment when goosebumps just covered your body? Maybe a character just did or said something spectacular or meaningful or even completely terrible. I call it “the chills,” and yes, it’s as self-explanatory as it seems. 

I love these experiences because it’s when I feel most connected to the story and the author. I want to throw my fangirl hands in the air and shout “YASSSS!!” in the most basic way possible. These are the moments we should strive for as writers. Moving our audience in a way that physically changes them.

But how do you get there? How do you make a reader feel these things?

There are a couple basic rules of thumb that I would suggest.

1) Make your character believable – one of my pet peeves is reading a book and being yanked out of the story because a character said or did something so…out of character. It immediately reminds the reader they’re reading, and you don’t want to do that. On the same topic, characters need to have personalities. Real ones. Don’t make them super model hot or super hero muscular unless they have some serious flaws or something humanizing about them. Your reader wants to relate to your character on some level. If they’re unattainably attractive or perfect then we won’t root for them. No one wants the class superstar to win.

2) On that note, make them lose – if everything comes to them easily then who cares to keep reading. So make them lose. A lot. Not always big losses. It can be little things. Can’t pay bills, bad grade on a test. Think of Hermione Granger. She was intelligent and excelled academically, but she had buck teeth and muggle blood. Friend-wise she lost a lot, which made you cheer all the more when she won Viktor Krum and then later, our favorite ginger. And of course all the other butt-kicking she did finding horcruxes.

3) Don’t stick to the mood of your book so much that the reader never feels other emotions – kind of a weird thing to have to say, but you’d be surprised how many people write a sitcom and think it can never have serious moments, or vice versa. These are what give our characters that depth our reader’s need and expect. If they are always stoic or happy-go-lucky, it’s not realistic. Name one person who is ALWAYS in one steady mood. You probably can’t. So if there is no person like this, there probably shouldn’t be any writing like this. Vary your sentences. Let your characters and plot shape the darkness and light in your writing. Write no matter what mood you’re in. When you go back to edit you’ll find the flow that feels right.

So happy Friday all, and I hope you get the chills today from whatever you’re reading or writing.

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