Friday, January 11, 2013

Make Me Care

In WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass (Love all of his craft books. Seriously. Go read them!), he says that you shouldn’t necessarily write what you know, but what you care about. “If you don’t know, you’ll find out. But if you don’t care, why should anyone else?” (3).

I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to “quit” anything—especially books. I’ll hang in there until the end, even if I’m struggling to keep the pages turning.  Right now, though, I have about 75 books in my “To Be Read” pile—including on my Kindle. Between the day job and writing, I only have time to read 35-50 books a year (on average). (Yes. I keep track of the titles. I’m OCD like that.) 

I never understood why people would abandon books before the end—but I’m beginning to see the appeal. Right now I just don’t have the time to invest in a book that doesn’t capture me from the first few chapters.

Obviously, what captures one person might not necessarily capture the next—I realize this is totally subjective. I also realize that, by “not hanging in there,” I might miss out on some real gems. Still….

In perusing the list of titles I read last year, I easily remember which books I struggled to get through and the ones where the pages practically turned themselves.

A few of the ones I struggled with were well-plotted and well-written, but I wasn’t necessarily rushing back to the Kindle (or shelf) to pick them up. On the flip side, I recently finished a story that could have been edited better, but had me completely sucked in—and I mean “bathwater running cold” sucked in.

The difference?

I cared.

I cared about the characters and what happened to them.

Again, this concept is highly subjective, because the things I care about you might not care about, and that’s okay. But, as writers, this is something that should always be at the forefront in our minds—it’s something I continue to work on.

Because if I don’t care, why should I expect my readers to care?


Katie Klein is a diehard romantic with a penchant for protagonists who kick butt. Her YA contemporary romance, Cross My Heart, is an Amazon Teen Top 100 Bestseller and was a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best YA Fiction.

She’s bouncing between three books right now—one that’s turning its own pages, and two she’s trying *so hard* not to give up on. No, it’s not your book, so don’t worry.  :)

You can find her on the web at,, or!/katiekleinbooks.


  1. Nice post - I feel the same way. I can overlook a lot of things in a book if the story is engrossing. I will always care more about story than grammar! (I typed grammer first, illustrating that I don't care so much about spelling either. Ha!)

  2. I love when I find a book that is both, but I've put many extremely well written books down because I don't care enough. And with so many waiting to take their place....

    I do read the ones I purchase. But with so many from the library and elibrary, I'll stop when I absolutely keep falling asleep on it every night!

    I think we're finding that story is most important. I love finding a book that I can't put down and that is well written! Those are the gems!

  3. On the other side of that, I hate the tricks a lot of writers (books and TV) use to make us think we care at the start without actually providing any substance. I'm talking about the trend to jump into the middle of the action (skipping the exposition and getting as close to the climax as possible) so as to hook us without, actually, providing a reason to care about the characters. The sad thing is that so many people are fooled by this tactic.

  4. Thanks, guys! I'm glad I'm not the only one who has to put books aside. Not knocking the stories or the authors--but I'm struggling to stay on top of things as it is. When I read, I want to be wowed. :D

    And Andrew: you're so right. The good news is, if there's action upfront, I'm more likely to read on/stay tuned. But I do like my "plot" with a side of "substance." It's a delicate balance. :D

    I think a lot of it depends on the genre, too. We expect romances and thrillers to jump straight into the good stuff without all the fluffing.

    *snickers* Okay, that's too many seasons of ENTOURAGE coming out.

    I'm all for a slow build-up, but I need something to hang onto in the first few chapters if I'm going to keep coming back to the story. :D

  5. I loved WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. So much wisdom in there. I think the gut emotional appeal element is so important to making us care. Like Andrew said, it doesn't count if you just throw your character into some scary situation. It needs to be emotional, and the character needs to show feeling in some way. All great things to remember. Thank you!


  7. I think that's what we're all striving for--creating characters that draw us in and don't let go.

    Nice post!

  8. No matter what book we read, it's about the characters. Even people who are die-hard setting fanatics would have a difficult time getting through a book with no characters.

    My take on "write what you know" is here.

  9. I bail on a lot of books these days. If it can't hold my interest by a fast moving plot or fascinating characters, I move on. I didn't use to do that. I think the digital age has changed the way I read.