We know that social media is a great way to engage with your readers as an author. But have you ever thought about engaging with your readers from the perspective of a character in your novel?
by Jaime D.
Stepping into someone else’s shoes comes naturally to writers. They build their characters as their own; first in their heads, then on the page. However, assuming someone else’s protagonist didn’t come naturally to me when I started this project. Becoming Sophie Evans, the protagonist in Eric Walter’s novel 90 Days of Different, was a real eye-opener. The experience pushed me out my comfort zone. It provided an authentic opportunity to learn how to write in the voice of a character. Yet it also gave me the chance to explore the power of social media and how it can positively connect, inspire, and engage readers around the world.
It all started in grade four. I was a reluctant reader and refused to pick up a book. But once I realized my inhibition was blocking me from reading all sorts of diverse and interesting stories, I took the plunge. Since doing so, I have never turned back. My love for reading and writing grew rapidly.
About a year ago, I contacted author Eric Walters. I had a very minor role in one of his past books and was looking for anything I could do to help him that would also stoke my now-keen love of literacy. He told me about 90 Days of Different, a new story he was working on for YA audiences. The manuscript was a tried and true tale, a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl named Sophie who spends the summer breaking out of her comfort zone by trying all sorts of new adventures coordinated by her best friend Ella. Each of the adventures was different, and thus, given the name a “different”. They took place throughout the summer, hence the title of the novel, 90 Days of Different. Eric offered me the opportunity to give him feedback on the manuscript, as well as the lead role in a unique social media marketing strategy to support the novel. I was over the moon with excitement, as I was going to become Sophie, the protagonist, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
My main role for this project was going to be to bring the character, Sophie Evans, to life through the various social media platforms so readers could follow along and see her journey through the book. I also had the chance to write eleven personal blogs from Sophie’s perspective on her take on some of the “differents” (experiences that push her out of comfort zone). In order to become the character, I began collecting images and creating animations to match Sophie’s experiences and recreate the important plot points of the novel. I quickly realized I’d need help, especially since all of the social media content had to be created from scratch to avoid copyright issues. I reached out to friends, family, and people who were interested in helping me. Thanks to my extensive collaborations, I managed to collect images of all Sophie’s crazy “differents”, including the CN Tower EdgeWalk, participating in a professional fashion show, and even getting a tattoo. I also learned how to use an app called Boomerang, which had was used to loop a short video clip. It was a great opportunity and taught me the importance of reaching out and collaborating as nothing can reach its full potential without the help, guidance, and support of others.
Through the project, I also had the opportunity to explore and extend my own writing. I wrote tweets and captions for each of the images I collected, as well as identified eleven new “differents” and wrote a series of blogs that told the story of Sophie in a variety of my own choices of “differents”. These blogs were not written into the novel, rather, they were written to sit outside the novel as an online component for the tween audience. I honed my skills through writing multiple drafts. Through the process, Eric helped me to better understand the structure of an inviting piece of literature; how to use words to evoke emotion and connection, how to detail events and adventures, and how to write in the voice of the protagonist. By the end of the project, my writing had improved immensely and Orca Publishing deemed my work was fit to publish. At the launch of the novel, I was officially a published writer.
One of the things I personally took from this project is how valuable social media can be as a tool to raise the voices and share the experiences of young people. Today, many young readers use social media such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat for most of their simple communication—often instead of picking up the phone or speaking in person. I use these tools every day. But social media, when used effectively, actually has significantly more potential for learning, collaboration, networking and marketing.
From a writer’s perspective, the project allowed readers to connect and interact with the character in a more meaningful way. I learned how to connect to an audience in a non-traditional way. Readers could see the journey Sophie went through on popular social media platforms and this made Sophie even more relatable to her young audience.
What are some of the non-traditional ways that you have used social media to interact with your readers?
Jaime is a high-school student in Toronto, Canada who shares her home with an adorable bulldog. She enjoys reading, especially novels with an intricate story and diverse characters. She is very interested in the writing and publishing process, and hopes to publish her own work some day. (You can read the author’s perspective of working with Jaimie on this project here!)