Do You Have What It Takes to Grab and Hold Reader ... your fiction writing do the sales work for you? Do you have that magic ... to hold readers until story's end? What are readers l
Do You Have What It Takes to Grab and Hold Reader Attention? Does your fiction writing do the sales work for you? Do you have that magic ingredient to hold readers until story's end? What are readers looking for in a good read anyway?
This article tells you how the What's In It For Me? (WIIFM) formula, normally applied to commercial endeavors, is equally important to readers who are browsing or scanning fiction looking for that next good read.
What's In It For Me? is all about you giving something of value. This is what attracts and holds your reader. As a fiction writer this thing of value that you give to the reader is an experience.
An experience is an exchange between the story and the reader that sets up a thinking and feeling connection for the reader.
When a reader first approaches any story they have no connection, no feeling response. At this point no exchange has occurred and no experience has begun.
It is your story's responsibility to move the reader into a state of connection by giving them a thinking and feeling experience. The better the experience, the more your story is valued.
How You Create an Experience for Your Reader. Your fiction story is built from components: plot, structure, characters, action, description, dialogue and your writing style. It is from these components that an experience can be created if you ensure they have quality.
Without quality components your writing will be, at best, bland or uninteresting (default reader disconnection: browsing on to the next book), or at worst, even irritating (active reader disconnection: noting never to look at that author's works again).
Rigorously apply the following checklist to your story, before and during writing. This ensures each component contributes to a quality reader experience?
Plot Does it offer enough temptation for the reader to come along for the ride? (Apply this question to every component.) Are the twists and turns believable even if incredible? If it's a simple or well-used plot, remember that more responsibility for creating reader experience will therefore fall on the other components of your story.
Structure Have you chosen a structure that presents the story in its best form and light? Or did you pick the easiest or most familiar structure without thinking about it?
Character Here is your most important opportunity to give the reader an experience. If you don't create connection here your reader has little reason to stay with the story. Psychological depth and originality create some of the most compelling and successful characterizations. Are you creating characters using a 'cut and paste' approach from elsewhere in fiction or life? Or are you originating from within your own creative depths, having absorbed observations and experiences from life and let that settle into the mix within yourself? A Philip Marlow character or an unfamiliar (new) mix of traits?
Action Are your action scenes genuinely originating out of your characters' interactions with the plot and each other? Or are you artificially imposing action responses onto your characters? The latter can lack believability and lose the connection you may have established with the reader via other components of your story.
Description Enough or too much? Are you including trivia? Are you omitting vital 'show don't tell' information about character, place, purpose, atmosphere. Is your description integral to the transmission of the plot, characters, action, your style, the story's tone? The reader's feeling experience can be enormously enhanced by judicious use of description. It helps create that virtual reality experience that takes the reader deeper into the story.
Dialogue The most important questions to consider with dialogue are: Is it worth saying? and; Is it said well? Delete, or replace with valuable content as necessary. A note on using street talk. Beware; great skill needed. Reading written translations of this material can be tedious. Similarly, with jargon or accented language use this sparingly and with skill, otherwise it is painful to read. Err on the side of using regular written language with tweaking to support your style, story tone, or the character's personality or background.
Your Style Some writers forget or choose not to develop this and just copy someone else's style or a generic style. This can work if the other components of your story are strong. If you specifically try for the creation of your own writing style or 'voice', remember to create a style aimed at benefiting the reader, not your self image. If the former leads to the latter, great. The flow goes one way only. You may need to experiment or workshop this style. Look for a feel, a pace, a tone, a way of thinking, speaking or moving that creates the type of energy you want for your story, characters, narrator and action. Find an integrated, fundamental way to write this energy into your story components. Each time you sit down to write your next scene you need to put yourself into that energy, that style, that feel, to maintain consistency and quality.
Briefly Practice these seven components with short written versions to ensure you have a quality experience to offer your reader. Try standard ten-minute exercises. This will give you an idea of which components you are ready, and which need more development.
And always apply your maxim: What thinking and feeling experience are you giving your reader? Are you taking them there? Or are they just watching from the outside while you go there?
_______________________________________ Need To Read? Take a Break! A quick break to clear and refresh your mind before plunging back into your busy schedule.
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