By Laura Marshall and Helen Marshall

Image Borrowed from Chelsea's Blog

Image Borrowed from Chelsea’s Blog

Last week on Movable Type we started to develop a classification system for book trailers. One of our main points is that book trailers are still a form in development – people are making this stuff up as the go along. And so are we.

Last week we promised you book trailers and this week, by-gumbo, we will deliver! Starting with the fine art of the Character Trailer.

A Character Trailer takes the viewpoint of the main character often including a voice over that directly addresses the reader/viewer. They tend to take their cue from first person narratives, often stealing dialogue from the first few pages of the book or the back copy. What this does is creates an immediate attachment to the main character and their predicament. It’s easier to connect to a character than it is to descriptive text.

The strength of the Character Trailer comes from the strength of the first person voice:

  • Immediacy
  • Intimacy
  • Automatic identification

Let’s take a look at the book trailer for Room by Emma Donoghue.

OMG! This made us tear up the first time (and every time) we watched it. You instantly become attached to the character and when things take a turn towards the dark you feel genuinely invested in the space of about 30 seconds. This is due to great music, wonderful voice acting, and an excellent use of simple text animation that supports the character. By using animated text alongside the voice over it still feels like a book. In summary, the biggest thing this trailer has is the immediate emotional hook.

Here’s one that takes the opposite approach by showing everything, and we mean everything! Including the most awkward romantic hair brush you’ve ever seen. (Thanks to Michael Matheson at A Dark and Terrible Beauty for this little gem.)

What works about this trailer is it knows its audience and mimics a style that they understand and love. It feels like a trailer for a Disney movie. It’s high drama, high production values, and tells you exactly what you’re going to get. The danger of this style is it feels like a Disney movie, not a book. Does it show too much?

We think this exchange from the YouTube comments sums up our feelings perfectly.

Here instead of the emotional sucker-punch of Room, we get a comedy. This works entirely on the strength of the voice which grabs you from line one. The action which is high production value is still less interesting than the character himself. This is really important for a book trailer – the writing still has to feel like it will carry its own weight. Too much dramatization can make you feel like you want to watch the movie rather than read the book. (Though the first book John Dies at the End was turned into an awesome looking move. Check out the trailer here.)

Character trailers are one of the most effective styles of book trailers. They draw you in and make you feel invested in the outcome of the story before you’ve even started reading. That’s what a good book trailer should do.

What other character trailers have you found to be effective? Let us know in the comments!

Next up is the synopsis trailer!

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