Break the Seas

A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.
– Franz Kafka

We all know that a story in which nothing bad happens to the character isn’t much of a story. The character needs something to fight against, so the reader has a reason to root for the character. This can be for heroes and villains, believe it or not.

That being said, when you write, who do you keep in mind as you write? The characters? Your overarching plot? Your theme? Your reader? Or all of the above?

When I began Trentwood’s Orphan, I had no idea who or what I was writing for. I simply had a character (Mary Winslow) who, like many of you mentioned in the comments two weeks ago, wouldn’t leave me alone. And that was good enough for me, then.

Now, I find that I’m writing not only to learn more about Mary, but also about how the world affects her and how she affects the world…that world including the reader. Can I make my reader cry? Can I make them frustrated? Will they be drawn into the story and wonder how Mary will get past her grief? Will they be desperate to know whether she will allow love, in any form, to break the seas frozen in her soul?

Some might discount this as a romance thing, only. As in, only in romance would an author try to tease such an emotional response from their reader. I beg to differ. Many a literary fiction has done much worse to me than the majority of the romances I’ve read. And perhaps that’s why I want to bring emotional turmoil, real emotional turmoil, to my romance.

Romance is a part of life, as is tragedy. Oftentimes, they come hand-in-hand. Is this so in fiction? Not always. Does this mean romance and tragedy should never happen together in fiction? Not necessarily.

In fact, if an author can touch me in such a way that I feel as though my very soul was burned, I’m much more likely to recommend the book to a friend. That is what I strive for, something so…fierce, I suppose, that my reader is scorched, forever changed by my writing.

Tell me, is this something you’ve considered? Do you feel breaking the ice of your reader’s soul is applicable to your genre? Explain why or why not, I’m very curious to know how you feel about this.

4 thoughts on “Break the Seas

  1. I feel that as a writer, its our job to “touch” the reader. To leave behind a feeling – any kind of feeling (except, “dang that was a bad book”) – so the reader feels as though he or she is a changed person (in a small or big way) for reading our books. Otherwise, is there a point? Touching a reader has many levels. You speak of a deep emotional touch, like crying, but what of humor or just over all happiness? It’s our job to entertain, whether that be through laughter, sadness, or thought-provoking.

    I write romance and I strive to give the reader a sense of love and devotion that they may not find in everyday life. I started reading romance to escape all the “emotional smog” of the world and I write romance so I can do for my readers what so many other authors have done for me. It’s the least I can do, right? To give back?



  2. I struggle with the emotional aspect of writing because I am so intent upon keeping my writing solid, the entire process becomes cerebral. I always have a theme/agenda driving my stories, but it is so easy to tune in on expounding that theme through the variety of writing tools and methods available that emotion grows lost.

    I’m working on that. *g*


  3. Emily – I agree with you completely. Touching a reader can come in many forms, and the goal of the author should be to change the reader in some small way. The book I’m writing is a bit sadder than the last one I wrote, and so I’m preoccupied with balancing tears with slight laughter. So thank you for reminding me that happiness is just as profound as sadness.

    “Emotional smog.” I love it. So very accurate.

    Evangeline – I’m almost the exact opposite. I go by feeling, and so I sometimes lose my theme/agenda. I’m working on that, and making sure that everything I add is pertinent to the theme as a whole. It’s much harder than I expected, but a lot of fun at the same time.


  4. Belinda ~
    I attended a conference this past spring where Eloisa James was a keynote speaker. She told us that when writing one of her novels (Midnight Pleasures?) she was pregnant and dealing with the very real fear that something would happen to the baby. In the book, she writes about a heroine who loses her child through miscarriage. She used the book as an outlet for her own fears. She said she still gets mail about that book, years later and the book got her a three book deal with the publisher (which wasn’t her intent when writing those scenes, of course). The point being that it’s important for a writer to put a little (or a lot) of herself into her novel. Otherwise, is it real? Can it translate to the reader?

    That said, give me happiness any day when I write but I adore a book that can make me cry.



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