When I was in high school my parents attempted to set me up on dates several times, and when they succeeded it never worked. My parents were friends with another couple, and their son was my age. He was a nice kid, I was a nice kid, so both sets of parents decided that we should date, and probably marry. It would have been convenient for us all. We’d all enjoy a low-stress marriage and look forward to many ham-and-eggnog Christmases to come. We went on the date – golfing. I had a nice time, and I think he did too. But we didn’t click. Neither one of us did – no spark. And, I think it’s that quick too – there’s a click, or there isn’t.
But the click goes beyond physical attraction. I’m guessing most people experience it. You meet someone, and you either want to know more, or you don’t much care whether you ever meet again. But, what causes the click? I know it’s different for everyone, but I ought to be able to define it for me. I’ll dedicate this post to Maggie, a friend I met in November 2010 at the Wordharvest writer’s conference. Maggie sat on my left. Another woman sat on my right. I no longer remember the woman on my right, and Maggie just posted on my blog last week. In fact, she encouraged me to continue the blog after I had just decided last week to let it rest for a while…. So why did we click? I suppose we’re drawn to people who interest us, who compliment us in some way, or maybe we click with someone who fills a void in our own personality. But, how does that explain the click that often happens within seconds of meeting someone? I can usually tell whether I’ll hit it off with another person well before I know their personal history.
So, here’s how this relates to writing. I’m wondering how we develop characters who click with our readers. There’s nothing better than sitting down with a new book and clicking with the protagonist on the first page. Obviously my favorite characters won’t be the same as yours, but there are some universal clicks: the stories that resonate with everyone. So, I’m assigning myself a writing assignment for the week. I’m going to come back next Sunday with at least two characters who not only resonate with a broad range of readers, but who click with us on the first page. I’ll be looking for the answer to the question – how does the author do it? Then, I’ll be looking for the answer to – how can this author do it? I hope if you’re reading this and a universally appealing character comes to mind that you’ll comment and share your thoughts.