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Monday, July 6, 2015

Getting to the Heart of Character Appeal Terms with NoveList

Welcome back everyone.  RA for All is back from a very busy staycation in Chicagoland and it is time to get back to work.

The Monday Discussion is going hiatus as I have a lot of posts in the works, including a backlog of reviews. I am also ramping up the horror blog coverage as we creep close to Halloween, so make sure you are looking for new posts on that blog previewed in the right gutter of this one (for example there will be at least 2 this week).

But back to the topic at hand today. I hope those of you who went to ALA Annual visited the NoveList booth.  whether you did or not, I want to point out one of the big new things they were promoting-- the new character appeal language.

What is character appeal? Why should you care? Ahh, I will let Victoria Caplinger from NoveList explain in detail below from their blog, but I can tell you, it has already saved my butt in a few RA patron interactions.  Read on and then try it out for yourself.

Character Appeal Makes Its Debut
Post by Victoria Caplinger

When we first added appeal to NoveList, we focused most of our efforts around Tone and Writing Style. Since then, we’ve received occasional feedback asking why we didn’t include Character as one of our appeal factors. We were initially concerned that users might expect to see types of characters (hard-nosed alcoholic former detectives), or character names (looking at you, Mr. Darcy!). We already have subject headings that cover this kind of information, and we weren’t entirely sure what kind of terms would be helpful in talking about how fiction authors handle characterization.

Fast-forward a few months (or a couple of years!) and lots of research, and we decided to go for it. Rather than focus on the type of character, we concentrated on what people look for when the characters are the most important part of the reading experience.

For some readers, likeable characters are essential, and if you can add relatable to that, even better! Other readers require more depth, and for a suitably complex character may be willing to engage with a protagonist who is flawed, or even in some cases unlikeable. Some readers may be looking for quirky characters, rather than broodingintrospective ones, and books with large casts of characters may draw some readers in, while warning others away. And did I mention my personal favorite, unreliable narrator? No spoilers here!

Some of our character appeal terms are for younger audiences only. We mentioned in an earlier post the inclusion of our character diversity terms. Young readers might also find themselves drawn to books with mischievous characters, or with character duos (here you find your Ivy & Bean, or Elephant & Piggie, or Frog &Toad).

Curious to see the full list of what we came up with? Here they are:

Ability diverse
Character duos
Culturally diverse
Large cast of characters
LGBTQIA diverse
Religiously diverse
Strong female
Unreliable narrator

For more details (including definitions and audience levels), as well as information about the rest of our appeal language, download the Secret Language of Books: A Guide to Appeal from the What is Appeal page.

These appeal terms are ready to use in NoveList, so give them a whirl and see if you can find some characters to fall in love with!


Sonia Reppe said...

Great list of words for character appeal. The only weak one is "relatable," because what is relatable to one person may not be relatable to another. (I had a professor in Library School who hated that term to describe characters--I was glad that I had never used that word in a book review).

Becky said...

That is a great point Sonia. I too have never used relatable. I think it may work for teens more than adults though,