Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Cry if I Want To
I remember reading the first Gregor the Overlander book and crying when a cockroach died. Sounds ridiculous, I know. And my kids were like, "Mommy, why are you crying?" But the scene involved sacrifice. This cockroach was willing to sacrifice its life for a baby girl. With my baby girl on my lap as I read the book, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of that selfless act. If a cockroach had run by me at that point, I probably would have scooped it up and fed it ice cream. Seriously.
Several writer friends have told me that they want to write a book that makes people cry. But how do you do that? How do you build scenes that bring out emotion in your readers? More importantly, how do you do it without the reader feeling manipulated?
Death usually brings tears. Especially if one life is sacrificed for another. But I guarantee that if the same cockroach had died at the start of the book, or even in the middle, I wouldn't have cried. My tears were justified (at least in my mind!) because of the relationship that had been built over 180 pages between the cockroach and the baby girl. They were friends, they loved each other. And when that cockroach turned and fought instead of running away, I knew he was only doing that because he loved the girl. And I knew how devastated she would be when she found out.
The groundwork for a teary scene has to be laid early in the book. We have to care about the characters and what's at stake for them.
What books have made you cry? And what are you doing in your writing to make your readers cry?