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       Here's the last tip I mentioned in "Be Clueless, Write Awesome:"

If the reader doesn't care about the characters, he won't care what happens to them.  End of story.

It doesn't matter how many brilliant twists unfold in your masterpiece- all just more stuff nobody will read.  Unless your characters make an impression- fast.  Which begs the question.

How?

A few incredibly simple tools have worked wonders for me.

But first, one important distinction.  

I've seen this advice over and over- that readers must 'like' the protagonist, that having a relatable lead character is mandatory.

Wrong.  

Readers do not have to like your character.  They don't even have to relate to your character.

They only have to do one thing:  Care.  Be interested.  Burn to see what happens next.

You could write about a kindly old man walking his puppy to the grocer, and he could be the most likeable, relatable codger imaginable- but if he's boring pages will stop turning.  Would you be more inclined to read the biography of Grandpa Grocer, or Genghis Khan?  

  Interesting beats likeable- especially on page one.  

So if making a figure likeable isn't the key to snagging reader interest- what is?

I thought about this question before starting Dreamkeepers, and it took me underneath the stairs, to a pathetic crawlspace in the Dursley household.  One thing was drilled home in the opening of the Sorcerer's Stone, and it wasn't the finer points of Harry's personality, or the meticulous backstory that gradually emerged as the books continued.  We knew next to nothing about him, except one thing:

He was receiving bad treatment.  And he didn't deserve it.  

That one idea is what Rowling hammered home- and it worked.

Let's call it The Gap.

When you see something bad happening to a person- if they don't deserve it- you feel for them.

That hard-wired sympathetic reaction is the hook that causes a reader to care.  Introduce a character being unfairly hurt, and people have an instant desire to see them recover, and see their tormentor punished.  Because a gap has been introduced- a gap between how things are, and how they should be.  That gap sucks in reader emotion, and simmers with tension that needs to be resolved.  Pages start to turn- long enough for plot devices and deeper characterization to start building.

So that's it.  Throw The Gap at the reader early on, and it'll make them care.

It seems simple to the point of insipidity.  Just throwing some heavy-handed injustice out?  How could such an incredibly shallow tactic do anything but insult our intelligence?

It's usually the simple tools that work.  And while any tool can kill a story when wielded poorly, reflect on a few examples.  The Gap shows up everywhere- and it can get away with being surprisingly blatant:

*Harry Potter with the Dursleys.

*The murder of orphan Luke Skywalker's loving aunt and uncle.

*Ellen Ripley in Aliens showing affection to her cat, only to be hideously tormented by nightmarish fears.

*Paige being dunked by Randy.

*Mr. Incredible valiantly battling evil only to be sentenced to Cubicle Hell.

*Street Rat Aladdin chased by bloodthirsty guards merely because he needs to eat.

Odds are you didn't even notice these hooks being placed when you were viewing those stories- but these were key points where you started to care, these gaps between what the characters deserved, and what they got.

One cautionary note on The Gap:  You usually want the audience to pity the character more than the character pities herself.  If the character wallows in their unfair treatment we'll feel this self-centered fountain of misery kind of deserves their misfortune.  Nobody likes a whiner.  

Speaking of likeable- there’s a great tool to help with that.  Often deployed in or around the Gap, it’s called the Care Package.

A Care Package is when we see a character showing compassion and genuine concern for someone else.  

Just culling from the Gap examples above- there’s Luke Skywalker resolving to rescue Princess Leia, Ellen Ripley showing affection to her cat, Mace helping Paige out of the water, Mr. Incredible’s concern for the man being mugged outside the insurance offices, and Aladdin giving his hard-won bread to a pair of hungry kids.

The Care Package is another simple yet versatile tool.  You can drop a Care Package to round out a villain and show their human side- or give them an inverted Care Package, to showcase their cruelty.  

There are plenty of ways to snag reader interest in a character- but the Gap and the Care Package are two incredibly usable techniques to get the job done.  Simple?  Shallow?  Sure.  Is a fishhook a complicated mechanical device?  A satisfying story will, of course, have more to it than a hook.  Once you’ve made a down-payment on entertaining the reader, you win the wiggle room to develop deeper substance.

I didn’t have names for them, but I used the Gap and Care Packages when I started writing Dreamkeepers.  And there was one other thought in mind when developing the cast of Dreamkeepers;

Variety.

Sharply differentiated personalities.  We wanted them so distinctive that we could take one line entirely out of context, and it would be clear who spoke it.

Different personalities seems like a no-brainer, but it’s ignored all the time.  Think of the last TV show or movie where every character was some minor variation of self-serious angst.  Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like the cast is comprised of different people- like it’s all just one writer, and a few faces get shuffled around to share the lines as they come out.  

When personalities are homogenous it’s like listening to a piano with one note.    

Much richer when there’s contrast between the personalities.  

If everyone is dark and brooding, blah.  But put a grim pouter next to a sunny chatterbox?  Suddenly there’s a dynamic at play, an interchange.  Differences make fertile grounds for conflict, negotiation, betrayal, interesting details of every stripe.    

Often the chemistry, the dynamic between personalities, is vastly more interesting than the characters taken in isolation.  Just something to keep in mind when building your cast.

Hopefully this, along with The Gap and Care Packages, can help hook readers into your story.

But if these tools ignite interest- what maintains it?

What about stories that capture our interest and then seem to go wobbly, deflate, or worse- just stop making sense?  

That’s where the similarities between a good story and a fun game come into focus, and shed some unexpected insight.

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Dave and Liz Lillie
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       Here's the last tip I mentioned in "Be Clueless, Write Awesome:"

If the reader doesn't care about the characters, he won't care what happens to them.  End of story.

It doesn't matter how many brilliant twists unfold in your masterpiece- all just more stuff nobody will read.  Unless your characters make an impression- fast.  Which begs the question.

How?

A few incredibly simple tools have worked wonders for me.

But first, one important distinction.  

I've seen this advice over and over- that readers must 'like' the protagonist, that having a relatable lead character is mandatory.

Wrong.  

Readers do not have to like your character.  They don't even have to relate to your character.

They only have to do one thing:  Care.  Be interested.  Burn to see what happens next.

You could write about a kindly old man walking his puppy to the grocer, and he could be the most likeable, relatable codger imaginable- but if he's boring pages will stop turning.  Would you be more inclined to read the biography of Grandpa Grocer, or Genghis Khan?  

  Interesting beats likeable- especially on page one.  

So if making a figure likeable isn't the key to snagging reader interest- what is?

I thought about this question before starting Dreamkeepers, and it took me underneath the stairs, to a pathetic crawlspace in the Dursley household.  One thing was drilled home in the opening of the Sorcerer's Stone, and it wasn't the finer points of Harry's personality, or the meticulous backstory that gradually emerged as the books continued.  We knew next to nothing about him, except one thing:

He was receiving bad treatment.  And he didn't deserve it.  

That one idea is what Rowling hammered home- and it worked.

Let's call it The Gap.

When you see something bad happening to a person- if they don't deserve it- you feel for them.

That hard-wired sympathetic reaction is the hook that causes a reader to care.  Introduce a character being unfairly hurt, and people have an instant desire to see them recover, and see their tormentor punished.  Because a gap has been introduced- a gap between how things are, and how they should be.  That gap sucks in reader emotion, and simmers with tension that needs to be resolved.  Pages start to turn- long enough for plot devices and deeper characterization to start building.

So that's it.  Throw The Gap at the reader early on, and it'll make them care.

It seems simple to the point of insipidity.  Just throwing some heavy-handed injustice out?  How could such an incredibly shallow tactic do anything but insult our intelligence?

It's usually the simple tools that work.  And while any tool can kill a story when wielded poorly, reflect on a few examples.  The Gap shows up everywhere- and it can get away with being surprisingly blatant:

*Harry Potter with the Dursleys.

*The murder of orphan Luke Skywalker's loving aunt and uncle.

*Ellen Ripley in Aliens showing affection to her cat, only to be hideously tormented by nightmarish fears.

*Paige being dunked by Randy.

*Mr. Incredible valiantly battling evil only to be sentenced to Cubicle Hell.

*Street Rat Aladdin chased by bloodthirsty guards merely because he needs to eat.

Odds are you didn't even notice these hooks being placed when you were viewing those stories- but these were key points where you started to care, these gaps between what the characters deserved, and what they got.

One cautionary note on The Gap:  You usually want the audience to pity the character more than the character pities herself.  If the character wallows in their unfair treatment we'll feel this self-centered fountain of misery kind of deserves their misfortune.  Nobody likes a whiner.  

Speaking of likeable- there’s a great tool to help with that.  Often deployed in or around the Gap, it’s called the Care Package.

A Care Package is when we see a character showing compassion and genuine concern for someone else.  

Just culling from the Gap examples above- there’s Luke Skywalker resolving to rescue Princess Leia, Ellen Ripley showing affection to her cat, Mace helping Paige out of the water, Mr. Incredible’s concern for the man being mugged outside the insurance offices, and Aladdin giving his hard-won bread to a pair of hungry kids.

The Care Package is another simple yet versatile tool.  You can drop a Care Package to round out a villain and show their human side- or give them an inverted Care Package, to showcase their cruelty.  

There are plenty of ways to snag reader interest in a character- but the Gap and the Care Package are two incredibly usable techniques to get the job done.  Simple?  Shallow?  Sure.  Is a fishhook a complicated mechanical device?  A satisfying story will, of course, have more to it than a hook.  Once you’ve made a down-payment on entertaining the reader, you win the wiggle room to develop deeper substance.

I didn’t have names for them, but I used the Gap and Care Packages when I started writing Dreamkeepers.  And there was one other thought in mind when developing the cast of Dreamkeepers;

Variety.

Sharply differentiated personalities.  We wanted them so distinctive that we could take one line entirely out of context, and it would be clear who spoke it.

Different personalities seems like a no-brainer, but it’s ignored all the time.  Think of the last TV show or movie where every character was some minor variation of self-serious angst.  Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like the cast is comprised of different people- like it’s all just one writer, and a few faces get shuffled around to share the lines as they come out.  

When personalities are homogenous it’s like listening to a piano with one note.    

Much richer when there’s contrast between the personalities.  

If everyone is dark and brooding, blah.  But put a grim pouter next to a sunny chatterbox?  Suddenly there’s a dynamic at play, an interchange.  Differences make fertile grounds for conflict, negotiation, betrayal, interesting details of every stripe.    

Often the chemistry, the dynamic between personalities, is vastly more interesting than the characters taken in isolation.  Just something to keep in mind when building your cast.

Hopefully this, along with The Gap and Care Packages, can help hook readers into your story.

But if these tools ignite interest- what maintains it?

What about stories that capture our interest and then seem to go wobbly, deflate, or worse- just stop making sense?  

That’s where the similarities between a good story and a fun game come into focus, and shed some unexpected insight.
   Awhile back Jilo agreed to post a review of Dreamkeepers Volume 3- and seeing as how he's recently completed a book of his own, I'm pleased to return the favor.

First off, a gentlemanly warning:

PORN AHOY!

The book is unapologetic erotica, so it (and links below) are NSFW.  ...Pretty sure that stands for "Nice to Show Fellow Workers."

Given it's an adult book, time for some Q&A.  What happens when a snake catches a frog, a goat summons a demon, and two chickens get in a fight?

...If your answer was 'sex,' congratulations.  You've made it to the next round.

For those who enjoy adult furry art, this book is a find.

The general idea is built upon the Chinese zodiac- there are twelve stories to correspond with the different symbolic animals, eleven text and one comic.  And the text stories are all accompanied with dynamic full-page illustrations.  You can see art samples from the book here:  
furialatina.com.br/about-the-b…

The narratives cover a wide range of sexual tastes and scenarios- but they're all written in first person, as though narrated or transcribed by the character in question.  Admittedly the prose isn't flawless- the nitpicky editor in me wants to go in and bulldoze adjectives.   But considering the stories are being narrated by the characters, the casual tone ends up lending authenticity to the sultry tales.
Additionally, Jilo is from Rio de Janeiro, with English as a learned language.  And if you compare his aptitude for English against mine for Spanish, well...  No contest, he wins.

And shining through the stories is a pure sensual joy.  With so many puritanical witch hunts and shaming campaigns raging across the nets, it's surprisingly refreshing to come across something that celebrates esoteric erotic adventure without reservation.

The stories actually strike a difficult balance.  They manage to flesh out the porn with enough character and motive to give it substance- while never wandering so far that the narrative forgets its purpose and loses heat.  With a dozen stories and drawings to spare, there's a lot of content- clocking in at 160 pages.

If you'd like to see more, Jilo's art account can be found here:  www.furaffinity.net/user/jilo/

And his book can be purchased here:  www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/ronald…

Just be sure to close the door behind you before cracking open the covers.

Because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.  
Wisp Knows Something by Dreamkeepers
Wisp Knows Something
Clearly we need to make up captions for this one.   Have some fun, and sling 'em in the comments below!  Feel free to repost this art in your own account if you want to actually fill in the word balloon, that would be fun.

Volume 4 Sneak Peek art.  Don't miss the book release- sign up for the Newsletter:  www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/News…
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Nabonidus in Darkness by Dreamkeepers
Nabonidus in Darkness
Nabonidus having a Black Light Emergency...   I think we've all been there.

Volume 4 Sneak Peek art.  Don't miss the book release- sign up for the Newsletter:  www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/News…
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Prelude 280 by Dreamkeepers
Prelude 280
Dave: Harmony knows the drill. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fridge, in a home with a kid, that didn’t have stuff stuck all over it. It’s some kind of requirement. Also, based on the last panel, I think it would be really fun to see Vanth get into a slap fight…

Liz: In the lower right panel, you can see a small bat trying to eat a bug.
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Comments


Add a Comment:
 
:iconvm893:
VM893 Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Student Traditional Artist
I'm curious, will there by any chance one day be prelude comics pertaining to Bast's backstory?
Reply
:iconlockandstock12:
lockandstock12 Featured By Owner 21 hours ago
Hey, wait no longer! The current prelude arc is all about Bast and Vanth, actually! :)
Reply
:iconvm893:
VM893 Featured By Owner 19 hours ago  Student Traditional Artist
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!!!
Reply
:iconklarkkentthe3rd:
KlarkKentThe3rd Featured By Owner 3 days ago
Could you please fix page 14 of Prelude? It's not loading all the way:
dreamkeeperscomic.com/Prelude.…
Reply
:iconimaginarymadman:
ImaginaryMadMan Featured By Owner 6 days ago
I like your Dreamkeepers story.
Reply
:iconbarproductions:
BARproductions Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey Dave, I got a question to ask you, Mace is 15 years old like you said right? I mean... isn't Mace too old to believe Grunn's a childeater like some shocked 8yr' old that he used to be in the Prelude, www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/GNSa… cause he kinda looks like a DumbAss when he runs away, what happened to the GNS-mace that acted like an open minded brother figure to Paige back in the Graphic Novel Saga? did you have some intention to make Mace some oblivious idiot like that of Naruto's Idiocy or something?
Reply
:icondreamkeepers:
Dreamkeepers Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2014
...You may have underestimated the impact that a Rampaging Grunn can have on a person, regardless of age.  X D

I can add that a few things will happen within Prelude to add credence to his 'Childeater' theory, Mace isn't thinking it up on the spot.  As for whether Mace is an idiot, the cast of characters is somewhat divided on that issue- I'll let readers make their own judgements as the story moves forward.    


...Whip would say he's an idiot.  
Reply
:iconcombak:
Combak Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2014
Wait a little longer... ;)
Reply
:iconreptilian-angel:
Reptilian-Angel Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014
I just heard that the Volume four's going o be called "Descent into the Archives" right?

If so what's it gonna be about? Form what I learned from your journal entries its definitely gonna shed some light on what happened to Jeneviv but what's the center plot around the whole volume?
Reply
:icondreamkeepers:
Dreamkeepers Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2014
Yep, that's the title we have planned for V4.

It's going to center around the main cast searching for the Lost Archives in the caves below Anduruna- where they hope to find answers that will shed light on the Nightmares seeking their lives.   There's a few other plot threads woven in as well- anything else I ought to keep under wraps to avoid spoilers.  :D
Reply
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