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Showing posts from August, 2011

How to Drive a Story Forward

Every story has to proceed to its logical end. How a writer reaches that end is an important process. 

When we refer to ‘driving the story forward’, we mean that the story must have momentum and structure to engage the reader right to the end, but it must also impart necessary information without everything stalling part way through.

It’s a constant within fiction writing – the story needs to move on without dawdling on unimportant, boring stuff. If that happens, your reader will either fall asleep or give up. As Elmore Leonard once advised, cut out the parts that readers skip. In other words, get rid of the boring stuff to allow the story to move on. Readers don’t want to know what your main character had for breakfast, whether he made tea or coffee and what he decided to do with his day while he watered the plants – they want to get right to the heart of the action.

There are several ways to drive a story forward – Use of dialogue, character motivation, conflict, plot twists…

Making the reader care about your characters and themes

The themes that run through your novel are the drivers that create the emotion behind the plot. 

Themes like love, hate, rebellion, revenge etc, are all emotive; they have the ability to move us on many different levels. This happens because we recognise and understand those themes – we’ve dealt with some of them first hand and we’ve experienced many of those emotions.

You can have many themes running through your story, not just one.

And of course, without the characters to drive those themes, a reader would have nothing to care about.

Getting the reader to care about your characters is important, and empathy is key. A reader needs to recognise qualities in your characters that are inherent within themselves. Without empathy, the characters won’t connect with the reader.

Writers need the reader to care what happens to their characters, to read to the very end of the novel, because doing that will help a reader care about the entire story.

What makes us care?

The situations and obst…

The Importance of the Opening Chapter

To continue the theme of the previous article about how to tease your reader, one of the most important devices for luring the reader is the opening chapter of your novel.

Why should you write a compelling opening chapter? Because it is your chance to first grab the editor’s attention, then hopefully it will grab your reader's attention.

Your potential reader is discerning. They take only a few seconds to read the first few lines before they decide to buy your book. Those first few lines will be the difference between getting the reader to carry on reading, or being left on the shelf with other unread novels.

Think of it like fishing. You have to hook the reader first with your bait – the opening chapter. Then you reel them in bit by bit with the rest of the story, until the final chapter, when you can finally let them go.

How can a writer do that?

There are many ways to do it, but you should aim to seize the reader’s attention and curiosity from the very first words. 

There are…

How to Tease Your Reader

Writing fiction is all about getting the reader to invest their time and interest in your story. Writers do this by constantly teasing the reader, knowing this will entice them to turn each page and jump into their fictional world.

Of course, the whole premise with fiction is that once you’ve hooked your reader, you have to charm them enough to keep reading. There are several narrative devices available to a writer to accomplish this. 

The subtle craft of tease can be simple, slight, or hinted - you don’t have to hit your reader over the head with the obvious and you don’t have to overload them with everything that is likely to happen in the opening chapters.

Less is often more.

There are several ways you can tickle the reader’s fancy and keep their interest nicely oiled:

The opening hook Chapter end tease Symbolic overtones – foreshadowing events etc Planting clues 
Hooking the Reader

The opening of any story is important. That means the opening paragraph or sentence has to hook the…