Ah, June. The start of what I hope is a beautiful and blessed summer for all of us. I also like to think of summer as prime reading season. Actually, I love reading all year long, but there’s something about being poolside with a book and escaping the demands of real life that is extra relaxing.
Speaking of extra, one of the writing related things I do is judge contests. Sometimes they are in my favorite CCR genre, and sometimes not. No matter what the genre, the category is often one that’s a crowded market. For new authors trying to break in, the competition is fierce. One comment I often leave is with a genre as saturated as the one I’m judging, make sure you’re giving the readers something extra.
What do I mean by that?
I was mentored through what was the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and my mentors were the amazing husband and wife team Stephen and Janet Bly. They taught me that not only do I need to create layered, flawed characters, but give them a quirk or habit that stands out. That way your book stands out against the rest. Instead of that book with the heroine with brown hair, she’s the gal who constantly leaves a pencil in her tresses. In the NBC show Heroes from about ten years ago, one character didn’t even have a name. His script listed him by a feature: Horned Rimmed Glasses, or HRG.
I’ve tried to implement that advice in my own writing so if a reader can’t remember my name or book title, at least they can recall a feature about the book and hopefully recall everything. In Entrusted, Sara Bivins was the town matriarch. She looked like Mrs. Claus, but all the locals knew her handshakes and hugs were the strength of a professional wrestler. In Entangled, Carla was the single mom sheriff who was given the means to pursue the career she always wanted, cosmetology. One problem, her best friend Jenna pointed out Carla seemed stuck in one hairstyle for her own head, a ponytail. No matter what the occasion, Carla wore that ponytail and Jenna was afraid Carla would never attract customers without creativity for her own style. In my November release of Restoring Christmas (first featured in last year’s boxed set, A Christmas to Remember,) the hero wears black nerdy glasses that friends tease make him look like Clark Kent.
When I’m reading, I look for those extras that set the character and story apart. Perhaps the heroine is chronically late, even to her own wedding. Maybe the hero sneezes when he’s nervous, making for an awkward and funny first kiss. Not only do these traits, hobbies, and features enhance the story, they also make that read rise up to the top. A book a reader can remember for all the right reasons long after they finish is exactly what an author wants. That little something extra is what I love to see when I’m reading. How about you?
What trait or habit can you recall from a CCR that stood out to you? Do you look for those things in a book?