Monday, September 06, 2021

Emotional Connections—Intended or Not

In spite of Covid, here on the coast, we’re still having some events, mostly outside. A few nights ago, our downtown association held an outdoor concert on the waterfront that’s free to the public. Since they sell beer and wine, someone has to check IDs. That’s my job. I like the opportunity to meet people at the gate.

As my wife and I were arriving, just before we started out volunteer shifts, one of the other volunteers waved me over. She hugged me and whispered, “I’m reading your new book. It made me cry.”

That’s when a writer knows he or she has connected with the reader. I’ll be teaching another creative writing class at our local college starting in two weeks, and one of the classes deals with making emotional connections. 

In this particular instance, my friend cried in a place in the book that I hadn’t considered to be sad as much as jarring. In Shadow Hill, I hit on a couple of current themes—climate change and mass shootings. In a particular passage on shootings taking place in schools, I talked about Newtown, Connecticut, the place of a horrible incident that left twenty children between the ages of six and seven and six adult staff members dead.

My friend had lived in Newtown at the time and had a connection with Sandy Hook Elementary School. So that emotional connection had been unintended. 

In another instance, in my first book Random Road, there’s a character by the name of Frank Mancini. He’s charming, attractive, and erudite but he’s married and had an adulterous relationship with my main character, Geneva Chase.  

He might be a cad, but an awful lot of my female readers find him engaging.

I have a friend whose last name is Mancini. She had my book with her when she was flying home for the funeral of her father, whose name was also Frank Mancini. 

When she returned, she told me about the coincidence, and I felt a little awkward about it. She put her hand on my shoulder and told me that the family thought it was amusing and had lightened everyone’s mood. 

Unintended circumstance. 

In the same book, I kill off one of my main characters. I ran into a neighbor who had read the book and she told me how angry she was at me. Then she chuckled and told me that once she finished the book, she understood why I wrote what I did.  

And finally, I knew I’d struck gold when another neighbor told me he’d recently finished reading Graveyard Bay. I asked him how he liked it.

He told me, “It gave me nightmares.”

Well, then I’ve done my job.

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