Post by Cam M. Sato, Tokyo, Japan
On April 20, 2019, we converged on the Tokyo Women’s Plaza in Shibuya to hear the prolific New York Times Bestselling author Jennifer Nielsen share the secret of the unputdownable page.
When I walked into the room, Jennifer was already there, bigger than life, with markers and powerpoint clicker ready to go. She had so much to share in our short time together, and she did so with the flair of a thespian.
It was important to Jennifer that she talk about what we wanted to know about writing or being a writer, so she started off by answering questions from the group. These included questions about writing a series, her routine, discipline, and how she plots her stories. She encouraged us to make strong choices in our writing, not just going with the first idea that pops into our heads, as weak choices lead to writer’s block.
Jennifer then shared the importance of emotions in creating characters readers are going to love. When readers care about our characters they will want to know what happens to them. It’s this connection that Jennifer feels is the most important job for writers. Readers, especially young readers, will bond with a character, so it’s crucial for writers to create good characters with strength, courage, honesty, and other good qualities that readers may aspire to.
That being said, Jennifer maintained that it’s also important to be cruel to characters you love, pitting them against villains that have strengths where your character has weaknesses so that villains can exploit those weaknesses, making us wonder how our hero is ever going to win.
When the protagonist triumphs over the antagonist, it can give the reader the courage and strength to try to overcome difficulties in their own lives. Jennifer loves getting mail from readers that let her know how her stories and characters have an impact on their lives. She told us our books could literally save a life.
Because Jennifer cares about her audience, she encouraged us to participate and gave us exercises that helped us think about our own characters and plots, so that we, too, could write stories that have an impact.
There are a few more secrets to the unputdownable page, but I won’t share them here. Instead, I encourage you join us next time.
Cam M. Sato is a poet, author, and editor. You can learn more about her at camsato.com.