“If we do our job correctly, the reader will feel what we feel. If we cry, they will cry. If we laugh, they will laugh. If we get our hearts on the page, the reader’s heart will link with ours.”
How true! Debbie Macomber should know. She’s the author of more than 100 books. From time to time, I’ve read a few of her heartwarming novels: They’re the kind of books you curl up with on a cold night, a cup of hot chocolate in hand. Debbie’s stories are cozy and
comforting. Characters face problems and heartbreak; life doesn’t always work out the way it’s planned, but the stories are wrapped in warmth and hope. When you finish one, you feel uplifted and in the land of possibilities. You know you’ve read a story that’s somehow made you care about the characters and what happens. It may not be Shakespeare, but it’s a story with heart.
You know the feeling. We all know when we experience it — and when we don’t. Just recently, I read a novel by a well-known author that was beautifully written and artfully engineered. It had a complex structure that must have been fun to construct and maddeningly difficult to keep track of. It had a sweeping narrative arc and characters who were intriguing. But, for me at least, the didn’t story have heart. Like the Tin Woodman, it was missing one. I didn’t feel the writer’s “heart on the page,” and so it didn’t touch mine. For me, overall the reading experience wasn’t as satisfying as it might have been.
How different when we read a book that truly touches our heart! I can still remember sitting in a bus in Manhattan in my knee socks. It was very early in the morning and I was on the way to school. I should have been studying my math, but instead, I pulled out my copy of a Tale of Two Cities and started reading it. I came to one passage and burst into tears. Bleary-eyed and sleepy, everyone in the bus turned to stare. Who was this kid who was crying? What had happened? I was reading a book whose author had written it with heart. And I’ve been a Charles Dickens fan ever since.
Sure, I was a teenager with all the angst that goes with it — it didn’t take much to put me over the edge. But I know that wasn’t it. A Tale of Two Cities touched me. It moved me. In that moment on the bus, the writer’s heart linked with mine.
We wordsmiths have so many tools in our kitbag. Let’s make sure that one of them is heart — and write on!