Writing with soul. That seems like an easy thing to do, but it’s a lot harder than it seems. Stephen King (who everyone knows is my favorite author) and JK Rowling have mastered infusing soul into the books they write. That’s one of the reasons their books sell so well. For JK Rowling, she’s not writing about a kid who has the greatest, most evil sorcerer who has ever lived out to kill him. She’s writing about Harry Potter and what it was like for him to have the greatest, most evil sorcerer who ever lived out to kill him. I know. On the surface it doesn’t seem like there’s a difference between those two sentences, but there is.
Stephen King and JK Rowling write stories that are driven by their characters. That doesn’t mean there’s any less of a plot in their books. Quite the contrary, their plotting is excellent. What they do is take their amazing plots, and then let their characters drive the story forward. So we know how it feels when Harry shows up in Hogwarts and sees how famous he is. JK Rowling shows us these things. We get to see Harry join the quidditch team. On the surface, that may not have been critical to the plot. Many other authors would not have added it, but JK Rowling added so many wonderful details about Harry Potter’s life that millions of people have come to love him. Reading a Harry Potter book wasn’t like reading about a two-dimensional character on the pages of a book. We were right there with Harry the first time he faced off with Voldermort. We were there that first summer away from Hogwarts, when he didn’t get any mail from his friends, and most heart-breakingly, we were with Harry in book seven when he turned himself over to Voldermort. I cried and cried and cried when I read that scene. And I rejoiced when he came back! We all did. And we did because JK Rowling knows how to write with soul.
That’s fine for JK Rowling and Stephen King, you say, but I’m not JK or Stephen. I just started my first book. This whole, writing with soul thing is too advanced and not necessary. But I’m here to tell you that writing with soul isn’t too advanced. Anyone can do it. It just takes a little time, patience, and love for your characters.
In Doomsday, a character close to Remy dies. Remy is a pretty tough chick. She’s strong, confident, and capable of facing down zombies (even though she doesn’t really want to). I knew when I created her, if I didn’t infuse her with soul, she would have come off as two-dimensional and unrealistic. So when her friend died, it gave me a chance to humanize her. So I have her visit one of her few trusted friends and break down at the death of this person she cared about. I also used that break down as a means to push the plot forward. The person she goes to for comfort has known her for a long time. He tells the reader, by way of his conversation with Remy, that he thinks Remy should investigate the death. And the reader gets a glimpse into why she doesn’t want to. Well, she wants to, but she’s scared. This scene is chock full of soul!
I love the Extinction series by Nicholas Sansbury Smith. These books are para-military books that take place during a zombie apocalypse and the author was still able to infuse his characters with soul. Giving your characters a soul is the difference between having a reader who cares about what happens to them or a reader who could not care less.
So when you’re working on your next chapter, take the necessary time to infuse your character with soul. Don’t just tell us how they feel about what’s happening to them and around them, show us! Make us care about them. It will be time well spent.
Until next time…