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Have you read An Unusual Path?
Since the debut of my first novel, An Unusual Path, I have received some wonderful feedback about it. Your kind words have meant the world to me. I have also received feedback about typos, mistakes, and confusing moments in the early copies, and while frustrating I am grateful for it all. People have told me that they couldn't put it down, that it was a wonderful read, and that the story was a beautiful tearjerker. All of those comments have warmed my heart in a way that I almost can't describe.
But my favorite moments of receiving feedback have been the angry comments, where people were really pissed off while reading. I know it sounds strange to say that those were my favorites, but it's true. I'm speaking, of course, of how shocked many readers where when Clark Knott died.
One of the first people who read an early copy of An Unusual Path before it was published never finished it because he was so angry I killed Clark. Another friend later told me, "I kind of hate you right now for killing off my favorite character!", something we shared a good laugh over after the fact.
The reason that those sorts of comments make me smile is simple. They mean that the reader is emotionally invested in the story, and as a fiction writer, that is like climbing Mt. Everest. I want my readers to care so much about the people who exist only on those pages that they are happy when the characters are happy, sad when the characters are sad, and shocked when something shocking happens to them. On the flip side of that, if a character is someone to be despised, I hope they root against them in the story with equal passion.
To my fellow writers- don't be afraid of a plot twists and shocking moments. I understand that it's scary sometimes to have something happen in a story that will rock your readers to their core. As I said earlier, one of my first readers never finished the book because of it, so I understand that fear. But those moments are what make a story amazing. Let someone fall in love with a character, only to have them taken away, because how that affects the other characters will also affect your reader.
Make them angry. Piss them off if you have to. The day may even come when your reader breaks down in tears, throws the book across the room, and buries their head in their hands. But you know what? Chances are they will pick it back up because they have to know what happens next, and then will tell a friend about this amazing book that had such impact on them.
Go have an impact on someone.
You can find JH Champine on Twitter at @jhchampine