We’ve all experienced something that was so fantastic, touched us so deeply, and moved us so profoundly that it is sad when it is over. For me, this happens the most when I am anticipating a great live theater show. I become excited days and days in advance, take the time to get all fancied up, and then enjoy every minute of the experience. Most of the time, the letdown afterwards is inevitable. There is something about becoming emotionally invested in something that makes you feel that after it is over, you have lost a little part of you. I’ve pretty much gone into mourning over the thought of never having those same experiences again. Dramatic, yes, but if you feel things deeply, you’ll know it’s true.
For us literary minded people, the exact same thing can happen when a beloved character dies, when an unexpected and unwelcomed plot twist takes place, or even when the book is just plain over. You spend so much of your time and energy reading and understanding the story that when it’s over, you are lost. It’s like losing a friend. You want to continue to enjoy their presence, but there is no way to. I guess that’s why many people love series. You can prolong your relationship with the setting, emotions, and characters of the story. But this usually makes the final parting that much more difficult. The depth of my despair after reading the last page of the seventh Harry Potter book was so much! Whether you’d like to admit it or not, you know you’re with me.
To be able to engage your readers to that extent takes effort and skill. Your story will be successful only if you have characters that people can relate to, and are curious about. I’ve read so many books where I wish that I could actually meet the character. Now that is good writing. Your characters must be lifelike and realistic in order to garner that sort of reaction out of your audience. I believe that as an author, you should want to leave your readers yearning for more after they read the final sentence. This is how you create lifelong readers of your work. This is easier said than done, I know. But with that being said, I think it proves that you have to spend just as much time developing strong characters as you do in developing a plot.
We as readers want to celebrate with them, grieve with them, learn and grow with them, and just be with them. I think this is true across any genre. For mysteries or thrillers, you want to create a character that readers want to root for to succeed. For love stories, you want to create a man that all of your female readers would want to marry. For horror, you want to create that one character that the reader continually hopes for to stay alive. Give your characters some spark, some depth, and some personality. Two dimensional characters are extremely hard to relate to. Even if you write a character that you want the reader to dislike, show the reader that they are not worthy.
Creating a compelling story with great characters is hard. But it is these characters that will draw the reader in, giving them a way to become emotionally attached. It is this attachment that creates the sense of sorrow when it is eventually broken at the conclusion of the story. Your goal, author, should be to create something that will give your reader a way to connect mentally and emotionally to your story, stirring them with a provocative and creative art form. After it is finished, your reader will feel a beautiful letdown.