The Greatness of Vulnerability

One of my favorite book scenes of all times is in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. At the end when Harry is talking to Dumbledore in his office, discussing the prophecy.

“Neither can live while the other survives.”

Dumbledore explains that the details given in the prophecy applied to Harry, but they also applied to Neville. It’s the moment when Harry finally understands what being the Chosen One will eventually mean.

He’s meant to die.

And Harry’s reaction in that moment is so profoundly vulnerable.

He grasps for the smallest hope, the littlest thread of light that might change the world so that he won’t be inevitably marching toward his own death. They were wrong. It’s all wrong. It HAS to be wrong!

It’s one of the most brilliant aspects of the book. Harry didn’t want it. He didn’t want any of it. He was lauded, admired, loved, put on a pedestal, but none of that did him any good. Because he was still just a motherless, fatherless kid who didn’t have any choice but to rise up and do what he could to protect himself and others.

No mask. No cape. No victory laps. Instead, at the end of each year, he ends up in the infirmary or with dead friends. Or both.

He has greatness thrust upon him and sometimes he bears that weight with his head held high. Other times, it leaves him broken and crying—in Dumbledore’s office or over a friend’s dead body.

Isn’t that a lesson to be learned? Greatness doesn’t mean being strong all the time. It just means putting one foot in front of the other, letting ourselves cry, and sometime admitting that we can’t do it by ourselves.

Point of View

I write from one perspective. All of my novels are told from the point of view of one character only—the heroine. I do that on purpose, and I’ll tell you why.

  1. With a romance, I feel like dual perspective can slow down the story-telling. You end up rehashing portions of the same action from both points of view. That can turn into more words telling less of a story.
  2. If I were to do dual perspective, I would need to write half of the book from a male point of view, and I simply don’t think I’m good enough at that to commit to it.
  3. My biggest reason, though, is this: My books are—first and foremost—romances. The big question that is going to be answered at the end of the book is always:

HOW WILL THEY END UP TOGETHER? Continue reading

$0.99 Summer eBook Sale!

Heads up! Just Ella is part of a multi-author summer promotion. All 57 of these books are only $0.99! June 19th-22nd.

BE SURE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE HEAT RATINGS! These books run the gamut, so be sure to grab those that you will enjoy.

heat 1 Nothing but sweet kisses, no language, mild violence
heat 2 Passionate kissing, minimal mild language (a.k.a. Bible curses), mild violence
heat 3 Closed-door sex, moderate language, moderate violence
heat 4 Steamy sex with some description, some graphic language, some graphic violence
heat 5 Steamy sex with graphic description, graphic language, graphic violence

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Loving Your Characters

When I start reading a book, there are many factors that might prevent me from being able to immerse myself in the story. One of the biggest is unlikable characters. I imagine that’s the case with many readers, especially if you enjoy character driven books. We don’t want to cheer for a character that we just don’t like. Sometimes I don’t like characters because they’re boring, other times it’s because I don’t respect them. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that writing likable characters is essential for an author’s success.

What’s the first step to writing likable characters? You have to actually like them yourself. If you don’t love the characters you create, then how can you expect readers to love them? Continue reading

Empathy, Validation, and Vocabulary

I was contacted last week by a good friend of mine from High School. Abi does short interviews with all kinds of people on all kinds of topics using SpareMin. This week she wanted to interview different people about the value of literature and she asked if I’d have a couple minutes to talk with her. Of course, I said, “Yes!”

As I thought about the topic, there was no lack of ideas that came to mind, but the three that made their way to the top of my list were these:

  1. Books teach empathy.
  2. Books can validate our own experience.
  3. Books give us an emotional vocabulary.

In the interview with Abi, we only spoke about the first, so I wanted to expound here.

Let me explain.

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Books Teach Empathy

When we read books, we usually get inside the head of one or more characters. We get a detailed view of their situation and their reaction to it. Good books will make us sympathize with the character. Great books will make us empathize with them. A well-written book will immerse us so fully in the character’s plight, that we can’t help but feel what they feel. And because the situation and emotional responses that can be contained and explained in books are unlimited in their diversity, it gives readers a chance to experience, in some small way, the life struggles of a vast number of people.

Books Can Validate Our Own Experience

When we find a character that we can relate to, someone who has experienced what we’ve experienced, or felt what we’ve felt, it can make us feel less alone. I’m thinking especially of middle school and high school aged kids and young adults. Kids who are experiencing huge emotions for the first time and who might feel like they are completely alone in what they’re feeling can find validation and camaraderie with fictional characters. It can give them a chance to realize, “Hey, this character feels the same way I do; maybe I’m not crazy. Maybe I’m not wrong to feel this way. Maybe other people feel this way too.”

Books Give Us Emotional Vocabulary

Yes, they teach us just plain old vocabulary as well. However, I think the more important aspect is being able to learn how to speak coherently about our own emotions. If a reader can identify with and relate to a certain character, there is a good chance that the way that character discovers, identifies, and labels their emotions with in turn teach the reader how to identify and label their emotions. Books give words to feelings. Words that people, especially kids, will be able to use when communicating their feelings to others. Has that ever happened to you? You’re reading a book and the character suddenly drops this perfectly worded truth bomb that describes what you’ve been feeling, but haven’t been able to identify for who knows how long? That’s a powerful thing. It’s a gift.

Books are a powerful tool. They can teach us a lot about ourselves. And they’re cheaper than therapy. 🙂