Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 8, 2012

This Editor Wants to Fall in Love

Assistant Editor, Ariel Colletti from Simon and Schuster (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) wrote this article last year for Sprouts Magazine.  I thought you might like to read what Ariel had to say about love:

Nothing can compare to the feeling of falling in love. So when I read a book or manuscript, I search for the head-over-heels rush of falling in love with the characters. There is nothing else that can so swiftly elevate my reading experience from good to remarkable. Those are the books that stay with me, that burrow their way into my heart.

                This doesn’t happen as often as I wish it would. When I can tell that an author puts one of her own characters on a pedestal, I rarely feel the same way. The characters that become real to me, on the other hand, have as many flaws and problems as I do. And just as important as who the character is internally is how they react to situations they are presented with along their journey, and the choices they make—all of which can show us more about who they are, or who they have the potential to become.

                Saying Melina Marchetta is one of my favorite authors is like saying that the sky is blue on a gorgeous summer day; it happens to be true, but pales in comparison to the reality. Her writing is wonderfully unique for many reasons, from the extent to which her dialogue rings true to her smart plotting, but it is her characters that get stuck in my head for weeks, months, after I finish her books. She has a tendency to introduce characters at their lowest points, and then slowly redeem them. Their flaws make them real, and watching them grow from beginning to end makes them special to me. It isn’t just her main characters that stand out, either. Everyone in her books is three dimensional. As a reader, I am ultimately rewarded in so many ways: I identify with some characters; I understand, and appreciate, a new perspective; and I make a new group of friends, characters I will hold tight for quite some time. Like so many aspects of literature, this works because it mirrors life.

                Frances Hardinge does something similar in The Lost Conspiracy. Her main character Hathin is introduced to us as shy, plain . . . and unimportant. She sees herself this way, as does everyone else in her world, and the reader. Slowly through the course of the book, she is revealed to be something else entirely. And is there anything as special as watching someone come to realize their own potential?

                Some authors, on the other hand, provide us with characters who are easy to love from page one. After all, realistic characters aren’t born on the first page; when I open a book, they have already had experiences that have shaped them into who they are. And who they are can color every action they make, every word they speak, subtle though it may be. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate gives us a girl—Calpurnia—who is lively and charming, a real joy to read about, but who is particularly intriguing because of her ambition, made possible by the presence of her scientist grandfather. Theirs is a relationship explored throughout the novel, but the seeds have already been planted when the book begins; so while we do watch Calpurnia change as a character throughout, her unique drive stands out from the very start.

                There are a multitude of ways to develop believable characters that capture the heart, but the important thing is to make sure that they do. For readers like me, this is the fastest, most definite way to ensure I will fall in love with a story.

Ariel will be joining the Networking Dinner in NYC next week.

Talk Tomorrow,



  1. Kathy, I remember this article and am so glad to hear Ariels will be in NYC next week 🙂 Even more to look forward to!


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