|Gina Ardito/Katherine Brandon
Eternally Yours available now!
Barnes and Noble:
When Becky invited me to guest blog here, I asked her what she wanted me to write about. She suggested “hooking the reader.” I thought about this topic all day Friday and Saturday, even wrote 500 words or so, but wasn’t happy with it. Whenever I’m stuck, I run ideas past my son (he’s 15) who shares my creative genes and a warped sense of humor. Saturday night, I asked for his help. “Becky wants me to talk about hooking the reader,” I told him.
His reply? “Tell them to put boobs in the first paragraph.”
Helpful, yes? Umm…no.
Hooking the reader is about more than titillation. Over the years, I’ve judged contests and seen openings where a sexy blonde sashays up to a bar and purrs, “I’d like Sex on the Beach,” when the rest of the story has nothing to do with a bar or drinks or even the beach. That’s not hooking the reader; that’s manipulating your story. It’s cheap and it only alienates your reader. So how do you hook a reader and keep him/her hooked all the way to The End? For me, it’s all about characterization.
First, you have to know and love your characters. Really know them, really love them. Know and love them the way you know and love your children, which requires you to know not only the good parts of them, but the bad: the flaws, the fears, the sins. Understand they’re going to fall every once in a while. Love them unconditionally, but watch them fall without interfering. Let them learn their own lessons in their own time. Then you have to create opportunities for them to fall; literally throw the banana peel under their feet, inches from the Grand Canyon (which you wouldn’t do with your real children).
In my latest release, Eternally Yours, I not only arrange for my character to fall. I make her commit suicide in Chapter One. Because the story takes place in the Afterlife with my heroine arriving in that realm before her time, Jodie had to die in the first chapter—suddenly and unplanned. No running in front of a bus to save a puppy (which was actually suggested to me by an editor) since, in my opinion, if that had been her fate, the rulers of the Afterlife would have known that was her fate and been prepared for her arrival. The only reasonable option for someone to die before her fated time would be self-termination.
Wanna know the hardest part? Eternally Yours is a romantic comedy. Talk about a challenge! How was I going to make suicide funny? Well, obviously, I can’t. The best I could do was to create an interesting opening and move through the suicide as quickly as possible. The rest of the story takes place in the Afterlife, that realm I’ve created after our time here on Earth has come to an end.
I also needed a hero worthy of my heroine, but filled with his own foibles and flaws. Enter Luc Asante, who was taken off life support by his wife after a rock-climbing accident. Luc’s worked as a bounty hunter in the Afterlife, wrangling up ghosts who’ve lingered too long on Earth to deal with unfinished business, for quite some time when Jodie becomes his new trainee.
Okay, great. I’ve got a memorable hero and heroine and some terrific secondary characters. Now, I need to create an interesting world that challenges them and entertains my reader. The Afterlife is chock-full of spirits and rules that will have both my hero and heroine banging their heads in frustration. Readers will love the small vignettes about each ghost they pursue, how they died, and why they can’t move on.
I have the recipe for a great story that will keep my readers turning the pages until The End. Throughout the story, though, it’s the characterization (of the hero/heroine, the secondary characters, and even the world they inhabit!) that keeps the tension taut, the reader rooting for my hero and heroine to find a Happily Ever After, despite the fact that they’re both dead.
Did I accomplish this feat? You be the judge. Read the book. Eternally Yours is available in electronic and paperback formats through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Buying the paperback version? Use B&N. For some strange reason, their price is cheaper than Amazon’s!