Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Power of Connection with Guest Laurel Blount

by Laurel Blount 

Writers are weird.

Oh, don’t look at me like that. We all know it.  Of course, we’re weird in the best possible way. Our uber creative minds are crammed with vivid imaginings, half-baked plots, and all too often, a nail-biting anxiety about reviews and sales. We argue out loud with people we invented, we dash dripping out of our showers to jot down scene notes, and some of you (cough-cough suspense writers cough-cough) have a Google history that could get you placed on watch lists. (If you want to have nightmares, go on a hike with a suspense author. They see body-hiding potential everywhere.)

So it stands to reason that sometimes the people who understand us best are other writers.

Recently, I went to Florida on a Christian writers’ retreat with fourteen fellow authors. We stayed in gorgeous condos overlooking the bay, and we ate scrumptious food. And that was all very nice. But you know what the most wonderful thing was?

The talks, hands down.

Because we writers “get” each other. We understand the blessings and the pitfalls of this unique profession in a way outsiders (or civilians as Lenora Worth affectionately calls them)--even the ones who love us dearly--can’t.

Let me tell you, the conversations rolled at this retreat, and each one was a feast of comradery and wisdom. We discussed heart-breaking revisions, pressure-inducing deadlines, frustrations, joys, successes and failures.

No matter what you brought up, somebody in the group would say, “Oh, yeah. That’s happened to me, too! Let me tell you what I did…”

C.S. Lewis believed this is the point where the richest friendships are born--in that moment when we feel connected to someone else through a shared experience or opinion. When someone exclaims, “You, too? Really? I thought I was the only one!”

Understanding this is so important for authors. First of all, because, like I said, as writers we need the unique connections we can form with our fellow creatives. I came home from that retreat feeling energized and refreshed, armed with new friendships that I’m truly thankful for.

Secondly, we need to understand this concept because we can leverage it in our writing to forge strong emotional connections between our characters and our readers. Let me tell you how that works for me:

In every story, I try to forge several emotional points of connection between my main characters and my reader, preferably beginning at the very start of the book. I like to begin with some tiny, shared experience that will resonate in my reader’s heart. I want her to think, Oh, yes! I know just how that feels. Been there, done that!

I think this is a powerful tool, and it seems to work well. I get a lot of reviews that say, “I felt like the characters were my friends!”  “I was drawn in right from the start.”  Those comments always make me smile--that’s exactly the reaction I want!

So, how to choose a situation to create this connection?  Easy--just pick a small, everyday experience that meshes well with both your plot and your character’s situation and personality.

For example, in my very first Love Inspired book, A Family for the Farmer, I started off with my heroine waiting in an attorney’s office with her young twins. The lawyer’s running late, and her twins are cranky and hungry. One of the kids asks for a hamburger, and the other one reminds her--loudly--that there’s never any money for hamburgers because they’re broke. Our heroine cringes and shoots an embarrassed glance at the lawyer’s sleek secretary.

So what are the points of connection here? Being forced to wait on someone who’s late, while wrangling hangry children. Being short on cash. Feeling ashamed when a child blurts out something personal--and not too flattering. Can you identify? I sure can--and I think most of our readers can, too.


Here’s another example. My new Love Inspired, Her Mountain Refuge opens with the heroine in a very different--but also highly relatable--predicament. Take a look:

Uh-oh.

Charlotte Tremaine froze midway through buttoning the forty-two tiny buttons scattered up the back of her client’s one-of-a-kind wedding gown. Her heart dropped right past her seven-months-and-counting baby bump and hit the overpriced shoes her mother-in-law had insisted she buy for Dylan’s funeral.

She gave the gaping fabric a hopeful tug.

Not a chance.

Charlotte’s heart started to pound. This was not good.

Pippa Sheridan was a gold-plated pain, but her dress was a triumph, if Charlotte did say so herself. It was a sleek dream of heavy satin and handmade French lace, vintage in its choice of material and refreshingly trendy in its cut and drape.

It was also way, way too small.

Now, maybe we’re not wedding dress designers like Charlotte Tremaine, but who among us hasn’t had an uh-oh moment like that? A sickening moment when our heart sinks, and we realize we’re in big, big trouble?  

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? And that fellow feeling gives us a strong point of connection with Charlotte. Our hearts go out to her--and we want to know what will happen next.

I believe this works because deep down, we all hunger to feel like we’re really not so weird after all. Other people have their uh-oh moments, too. And when we have a you, too? experience with someone, we feel a special compassion for their struggles.

When I went to the writers’ retreat, I was reminded that I wasn’t so weird, after all--at least not among other authors. The more we shared the common struggles of writing--and life--the more connected, accepted and compassionate we all felt.

It can work the same way for our readers. The more of these universal experiences we can sprinkle in our story, the more attached they’re going to feel to our characters. And the more connected they feel, the more they’re going to care about what happens to this story person--and the less likely they are to put down the book!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this--as readers and/or writers! Leave a comment to be entered to win signed copies of both  Her Mountain Refuge and the first book in the Cedar Ridge collection Lost and Found Faith!


Award-winning author Laurel Blount writes inspirational romances full of grit and grace—with characters who’ll walk right off the page and into your heart! She lives on a farm in Georgia with her husband, their four fabulous kids, and an assortment of ridiculously spoiled animals.

An enthusiastic multi-tasker, Laurel writes for both Berkley/Penguin Random House and Love Inspired/Harlequin. She’s the recipient of ACFW’s Carol Award, The New England Reader’s Choice Award and GRW’s Maggie Award. She’s represented by Jessica Alvarez of Bookends Literary Agency. Her Mountain Refuge is Laurel’s eighth book.


34 comments:

  1. Laurel, so good to see you back in Seekerville and congrats on another book! I love connecting with other writers. Unfortunately it's more likely to be online which is great but in person is so much better! I remember "meeting" you during a Harlequin contest years ago and it's been fun to watch you turn out several wonderful books since then. I look forward to reading ithis latest one and thanks so much for sharing your insights!

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    1. Hi, Glynis! Yes!! What a fun experience that contest was--I "met" so many great people--like you! Online meetings have been such a blessing, especially over the past couple of years, but I agree--I really love the "in person" get togethers. And I hope this little tip is helpful, lol--I'm still learning and think I always will be. Writing is that kinda gig!

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    2. Glynis, we writers seem to build a lot of relationships online, but it's so nice when we can finally hug that person's neck.

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  2. Thanks for a great post, Laurel. I know as a writer I often see the world in a different way than do non-writers. I will hear something and think "what if" and try to develop a story idea from that. Please put me in the drawing. The books look good.

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    1. Hi, Sandy! Yes, you are so right. We writers can "what if" like champions! :) Just one more reason why hanging out with our buddies is so much fun, lol. Always plenty of plot ideas to hash out! That's one of my favorite parts of any writer get together!

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    2. Sandy, the best stories often stem from a what-if. ;-)

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  3. The been there, done that thing cements it all together for readers. As a reader, I definitely look for certain book elements I can connect with. And now through your post, you have connected to all of us, Laurel. Glad you have a new book out and thank you for the give away!

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    1. Hi! Thanks so much for commenting, my friend. And yes, I think it really helps if you can find that "common ground" with a reader. Like you, I love that feeling when I can personally connect with a character or a plot point in a story. And I sure do love connecting with people here at Seekerville! What a great group!!

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    2. Laurel's books are among my favorites! When her first one had me laughing out loud, I knew we were destined to be friends.

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  4. Congratulations on the new book, Laurel! I too love the "common ground" or "shared experience" feeling when reading a book, especially when it involves certain locations or traditions, even old sayings. The "Hey, my family did that" or "said that" or "I've been there." Thanks for such an interesting post!

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    1. Laura, it's those connections that draw us into the story and make us want to cheer on the characters. And by the time we close the book, they feel like old friends.

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    2. Hi, Laura! Yes--that's it exactly!! When I get the feeling "Wow--these are my people!!" then I'm buckled in for the duration of the story, lol!

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  5. Yay, on your new release! Since I had an early peak at this endearing marriage of convenience story, I am so glad it is now in the world for everyone to enjoy. Most of my author and reader connections happen online, for which I am so thankful. Writing would be such a lonesome journey without the internet! Still, there is something extra special about getting to meet our online friends in person. But those less frequent opportunities to get together in person with other authors create lasting and deeper connections which I cherish. And events where I get to connect in person with readers have led to some valuable and cherished friendships as well. I look forward to the return of days when more in-person events are possible again.

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    1. Hiya, Amy! (My wonderful critique partner, Amy Grochowski messaged me to let me know she was this "anonymous". :) ) Yes, I am so thankful for these online meetings because they've really helped with the loneliness that a writing lifestyle can cause. But I agree that the in person get togethers are extra extra special, and I'm looking forward to lots more of those in the future as well!!

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    2. Writers do need other writers because we get each other in ways normals don't. ;-)

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  6. Hey Laurel, the Anonymous above where I start "The Been there done that" is my post ~ something happened that I showed up as anonymous! Anyway, I'm on now with my name, lol!

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    1. I've had that happen to me, too, Karen! :)

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    2. Karen, are you sure you weren't just going incognito? Always a pleasure to "see" you.

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    3. Haha MIndy! I'm so silly that I didn't realize it was anonymous until I had hit send. It's always good to see what you AWESOME AUTHORS have to say on here! Hey, have a great Memorial Day weekend to all of you!

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  7. You hit a great point, Laurel! Those shared experiences are where we connect with the characters. Now you have me thinking how I can up my game in this area.

    And that writer's retreat sounds fantastic. So glad you had a wonderful time with your "peeps!"

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    1. Hi, Jan! Yay--if this seems helpful, that makes me happy! And oh, yeah--we had such a good time. Writer peeps are definitely the best kind of peeps!!

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  8. Ha! Nearly spit out water at never going on a hike with Suspense writers. I think that was what happened on our hike in Texas.

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    1. Hiya, Dana! Bwa ha--that was exactly what I was thinking about when I made that comment! But I didn't say NEVER go--because you guys are tons of fun. I just said be prepared for the nightmares, lol! I wouldn't have missed spending that time with you for the world--but you definitely did have me looking over my shoulder in those woods!

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    2. LOL! I'm just glad there were three romance authors to keep her in check!

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  9. Congratulations on your new book. Thank you for sharing your insight. Blessings

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Lucy.

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    2. Thanks so much, Lucy! I always love visiting here on Seekerville!!

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  10. Thanks for the entertaining post, Laurel, and congratulations on your new book release! It sounds wonderful! I love reading about the thoughts of writers as they create their books. I agree that relatable experiences draw the reader closer to the characters.

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    1. Winnie, while a writer's mind can be a scary place sometimes, it is fun to hear their thoughts as they wrote a story.

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    2. Thanks, Winnie! I love to hear how other writers work, too--always fun to know the story behind the story!

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  11. Ah, Laurel, such a good post. I crave that connection with other writers, and I love being able to meet together and visit, or just for me to listen and learn!

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    1. Erica, I feel exactly the same way. There's just nothing like it--and I always learn so much!

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  12. Wow, I would love to go on a writers' retreat! I wonder if there are any in Texas? I want to look into it now.
    Also I can't believe (with your excerpt) how efficiently you reveal so much major plot info in the most subtle, flowing way! In one single, casual, descriptive sentence we learn she's expecting and that she's a widow! Also she appears to have an overbearing mother-in-law. So skillfully done! "Hashtag: writing goals"
    Plus now I'm totally hooked--what happens next with the gold-plated pain and the wedding dress??? How does she react?!
    Thanks,
    Abby

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    1. Hi, Abby! You should definitely scout around for writers' retreats! They are wonderful. And thank so much for the kind words! Since Love Inspired books are on the shorter side, authors learn to slip important details wherever we can!
      And...the bridezilla doesn't take the news well, lol! But it does give our hero a chance to come to Charlotte's rescue!

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