Help Me Give a Damn!

Monday, April 4, 2011

C represents Care & Concern.

Arouse it in me.

Make me give a damn about your character. Set up their situation so I’ll feel even an iota of sympathy. Give me a reason to relate to them, even if I don’t understand them.

If I can’t fathom your character and his motivation, I’m not going to feel it’s worth my time to accompany them on a three hundred page journey.

Now I’m not interested in a cry-baby, who moans and gripes about how the world is treating them unfairly, unless you’re showing me how they fight through their ‘trials and crosses’ as we say in Jamaica.

As I watch them grow and change I’ll say ‘Yeah! You go, insert-name-of-character-here!’

Get me so far inside your MC’s head that on the last page I’ll regret seeing the story at an end.

How do I make readers care about my characters? I get inside their skin when I’m writing their scenes. At that time, I am simply the fingertips through which their story is being told.

Dig deep.

Feel their emotions.

Convey this to your reader.

Make them care. 

Related links:

Raw Callaloo
Cooked Callaloo
Today, I'll introduce you to two staples of the Jamaican diet. First there is callaloo (pronounced ka-la-loo), a green, leafy vegetable that is seasoned with onions, tomatoes, scotch bonnet pepper and any other niceties we care to add. It's eaten with boiled green bananas, dumplings or even rice. Some spice it up by adding codfish. It's a great source of iron for those who have anemia. 

Another Jamaican staple is Corned Beef and Cabbage.  Not quite the variety that the Irish eat, though I suspect they're the ones who brought this menu item to Jamaica. Our Corned Beef is the ground, canned variety. You'll enjoy it if you like salty stuff. The cabbage is seasoned with onions, pepper and tomatoes and then cooked and combined with the Corned Beef. We eat this mostly with rice or yam, dumplings and green bananas.
Corned Beef & Cabbage



  1. You're right...if you can't make a reader does care about a character, might as well kiss the story goodbye!

    The pics of your dishes make me hungrier is time for dinner here in Singapore!

  2. Hi,

    Oh so true, it's hard to read a book in which characters fail to draw one into their world let alone their heads. ;)

    Ha ha, food for thought, too.


  3. Well said. Now I am hungry too :)

  4. I get what you're saying about the beginning of books. So many take too long to 'get into'. I'm not a writer, but am a reader! Thanks for the great post.
    Thanks for checking out my blog and for the 'follow'! So glad to have you with me!!! I’m still new to blogging and really appreciate any new followers.
    Did you notice that you can click on my main page photo and it will take you directly to Oak Lawn Images, Facebook site and to the catalogue of photos. Or, if you select the link under the group of thumbnail photos, on my main page, you can just view the photographs on Flickr. If you see any you like, I’d love to have the feedback.
    Please check back frequently because I often change the main blog page photo.
    Kathy @ Oak Lawn Images

  5. I admit, those staples look kind of scary to me. Guess that shows you how sheltered I am.

    I like your advice characters and trying to get the reader to care.

  6. Great post. I love exploring new foods. Callaloo looks a lot like spinach or kale. I wonder if it's related or has the same nutrients?

  7. So true. I definitely need to give a damn about your character and I don't like whiny ones either.(thanks for the links)Also, the food is making my mouth water.

  8. Great post. But, I have a question. You're Wordsmith on TNBW, right? I see you have a book called 'Distraction', do you want me to review it? I can if you like. I will be under Ann Elle Altman.

  9. damyantiwrites, thanks for dropping in!

    Francine, being immersed in the characters world does make for a much better read.

    Siv, thanks for the visit!

    Kathy, Glad you could relate to this.

    Angela Felsted, they’re not bad once you’re used to the Jamaican style of cooking. Lots of spices, plenty of colour.

  10. Rula, Calaloo tastes a bit like spinach and I believe it is related to kale. Certainly looks like it.

    Went and had a look at the getjamaica site and found that callaloo has all the following nutrients: Though the Jamaican callaloo Jamaican plant itself does not have much medicinal uses the food does contain several vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A, B and C, and is high in protein, iron, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, ascorbic acid, amino acids, arginine, cystine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, alanine, glycine, praline, serine and tyrosine.

    Thanks for dropping in, Dianne.
    Deborah, Thanks!
    Nice to meet you. Have fun reading!

    Clarissa, Yes, that’s me, and yes, I’d be delighted. I’m at the point where I want to bang my head against a wall. I’m reworking it, so if you’re taking a gander at it, go for Distraction, The Third Edition. Lost the second chapter though. Putting it back up later. Do you have anything you want me to look at?

  11. Nah, not really. Just doing edits on The Sholes book right now with my editor. I'm trying to get the book out by the end of the year.

  12. Okay, let me know when you have something going.

  13. This is interesting--thanks for sharing about your culture. I'm curious, though, why do you eat your banana's green?

  14. A lot of great C words and recipes. Glad I came over to meet you!
    Ann Best, Long Journey Home

  15. Love this post. Love the character. We have to make even our unloveable characters have some kind of appeal for the reader. And show them distinctly.

    Great blog. I will be back tomorrow.

  16. Elle, sorry, I thought I'd answered this before. Boiled, green bananas is a good source of iron. We use it as a starch to go along with breakfast food like callaloo, liver, ackee and saltish. We do eat ripe bananas as well.

    Hi, Ann, thanks for stopping in. I look forward to getting to know you too.

    Jeanne, I agree. Even the unlovable ones must have something about them to make readers want to know what they're up to. :)

  17. Callaloo--what a fabulous word! I'd like to try it sometime. I'm also enjoying your writing about writing. I'm a reader, but am fascinated with writing advice.
    Thanks for visiting my color post today.

  18. Hi, J.L.! These Jamaican foods look delicious!

    You're right about the importance of making readers care about the characters. The characters are my favorite parts about a novel, so I strive to write the kind of characters readers will root for, or if its a villain, then hate with a passion!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm looking forward to your future posts!

  19. Great post on characters! I totally agree. Also, that's really cool about the Jamaican staples.

  20. Believe it or not, I think this is the most essential part of the story. If readers aren't emotionally invested in the characters, they won't care what else is going on. It's the same when writing the characters - it shows when an author isn't emotionally invested in his/her characters. I've seen his transition when big name authors are pressed to write - you can see it in their characters that they're not giving the same care to creating them that they used to.

  21. As I am trying to get around everyone (for goodness sake every time I look there's another hundred signed up!!) commenting briefly to say great posts,and delicious sounding receipes - thanks for both and hopefully when things calm down I'll be back for a proper comment

  22. I love Calalloo and Corned Beef and Cabbage as well. I was introduced to them on my first trip to Kingston in 1989. The corned beef is more like we have in England to the kind in the USA.

  23. Totally onboard about characters. Sounds so easy. Is so hard.

    Your callaloo sounds like our mustard, turnip, and collard greens. Looks like them, too, after cooking.


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