Last year, my speech coach gave me a piece of wisdom. It went something like this:
"When you read a book for the first time, you read to experience the story. The second time, you read to experience the plot again, even though some of the magic is gone. After that, you read simply because you love the characters and want to be with them. Good characters are what cause readers to return to your writing again and again."
That's not exactly how she said it, but it's the general idea.
Let's all meditate on this, shall we?
The first time you read a fantastic book, it's exciting. You get to experience a new plot full of new characters, and you don't know how any of it turns out. The second time, it's still exciting, but much less so. Much of the suspense is gone, because no matter how much you enjoyed the story, you know how it ends. And that takes a lot of excitement out of it.
But the third and fourth times...you know the plot by heart. You know almost exactly what is going to happen, what the people will say. And yet, you still read it. The plot may hold some interest to you still.
In reality, though, it's all about the characters.
You had to read that book again not because you missed the plot, but because you missed the characters. That first time around you grew to love them. You enjoyed experiencing the story with them. They became your friends.
And what good are friends you never hang out with? If you enjoy someone's presence, but you never hang out, never talk, never email, never be with each other, then you aren't really friends, are you?
Therefore, when you reread a book that you've read a few times before, you're simply keeping up with old friends. You're enjoying their presence. You're just "hanging out".
You want people to love your book so much that they keep returning to it, over and over and over. You want someone's copy of your book to be worn out, to be falling apart from use. You want that copy to have been read countless times. You want to make your book something worth rereading.
Doesn't this say something about the importance of character development?
This is how important character development is. This is why you cannot have a good story without first having well-developed characters. This is why agents sit at their computers and blog for hours about character development.
So, if you want your book to be worth rereading, then take this post to heart. Remember how the characters define the story. Remember how much you love the characters from your favorite book.
Let's write something worth rereading.