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What I Realized at a Book Signing-Teens LOVE Characters Like Real People

I chose this photo just because the book I am working on now is set in a private school,
well that and a hospital, and the city of Boston. :) I love photos and just like to have them in my posts.
belmont
I have never thought about killing off my characters more than, this is what I need to tell this story. It has to happen. I don’t sit down and say, “hrm? How can I make people cry?” Or “I want to write a boo-hoo (as a fellow author friend of mine calls them) book.”
I went to a book signing and talk last night that a friend and fellow author was giving for her book-All The Bright Places- (Jennifer Niven). It was great, and I love supporting my friends, and great books. What was especially cool was sitting in the room with about 100 teenages. Watching their reactions to the book and how the book made them feel really hit home with me.
I thought.
Oh. My. God. “They are going to hate me, I kill of characters in every book.”
They didn’t hate Jennifer, but a lot of them were sad, and some destroyed because of something that happens in the book.
It’s funny how we as adults feel like we know and love these characters, but for teens, well, I am learning, there is a whole new level of “REAL” when it comes to our work.
I brought my first 10 pages to a Starbucks a few months ago. I bought all the teens in the room coffee and treats and asked for their opinions on my first chapter. It was amazing, and what was great was that they had totally different reactions than my critique group-who at the time was mostly middle aged and older women-who don’t want to think that their sons would ever do anything wrong. So I had to get teens to weigh in.
When I then told them what happens in the story, in a clumsy not-the-way-I-would-pitch-it way, they had STRONG reactions. One girl actually teared up-WHY???? why does that character have to die-why??? I could see it in her face. Broke my heart a little, and it excited me at the same time.
My goal is not to make teens, or anyone cry, but to tell a powerful story. I am trying, learning, revising, reworking, working on my craft daily so I can achieve this. Last night gave me a whole new perspective on just how personal these stories can be to these kids.
Also helps me be ready to answer these questions when I am up there giving a talk.
When I used to read my chick lit books at signings-I just hoped for some laughs-the books didn’t mean anything, they were just fluff and fun. Now I have shifted into wanting my work to mean something to kids even if that means I may have to pair up with Kleenex and sell tissues with each copy (just kidding of course).
If you haven’t read All The Bright Places, I highly recommend it. It’s powerful, beautiful and just great. Finch and Violet will take you ‘wandering’ into their lives, dreams, hopes, despair and love.
atbp_m

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