Archive for the ‘Award-Winning Fiction’ Category

Why Care About Hooking a Reader?

June 30, 2020

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.

Seems Like an Easy Question
Simply put, if you don’t hook your readers, they won’t get into the story. If readers don’t get into the story, they won’t have a reason to keep reading.

No readers? No book sales. No book sales? Goodbye writing career. So, getting it right is an important part of the writing process.

Suspense is one of the techniques you can use to hook them, but it’s always been true that all suspense comes out of giving the reader information. After all, you can’t expect people to have anxieties, if they don’t have something to be anxious about.

Think about the pandemic and recent country-wide riots, and the fear many people felt, or still do. That’s what it’s like.

In other words, if you tell the reader there’s a bomb in the room, and it’s going to go off in three minutes…that’s suspense…and it’s a highly emotional process, like being on a roller-coaster ride.

Put Characters in Jeopardy
The information you provide for suspense all comes down to creating these four vital factors: empathy, concern, impending danger and escalating tension.

You create reader empathy by giving the character a desire or internal struggle. Something readers can identify with. Once they care about a character, readers will be invested when they see that character struggling to get what he desires.

The more readers empathize, the closer their connection with the story will be.

If readers become engaged in the story, suspense builds as danger approaches. But it doesn’t have to be a physical life-and-death situation. The threat could involve the character’s psychological, emotional or spiritual well-being instead.

However, if tension doesn’t escalate, the suspense you’ve been trying to develop will evaporate. Suspenseful storytelling is like inflating a balloon. You can’t stop blowing or you let the air out. You have to keep blowing more in, tightening the tension until the balloon looks like it’s going to pop any second.

Then blow in even more…until the reader can hardly stand it.

Include Promises
It’s important to remember that suspense happens in the moments between the promise of something dreadful and its arrival. If readers complain “nothing is happening” what they’re really saying is no promises are being made.

Contrary to what you might think, the problem of readers being bored by inaction isn’t solved by adding action. Suspense is anticipation, after all. Action is the payoff. You don’t increase suspense by making things happen, but by promising they will.

Keep Every Promise You Make
In tandem with making promises is the obligation of keeping them. But you’d better deliver. The bigger the promise, the bigger the payoff the reader wants. A huge promise without the fulfillment isn’t suspense…it’s disappointment.

If you spend three paragraphs describing a woman’s multi-colored silk scarf, that scarf had better be vital to the story. If not, you’re telling your readers, “Oh, by the way, I wasted your time. That part really wasn’t important.”

Never disrespect your readers like that.

When stories falter it’s not usually because the writers didn’t make big enough promises. It’s because they they broke those promises by never fulfilling them at all. When readers invest their time, they want that investment to pay off.

Know the Difference Between Suspense and Mystery
A story moves through action to moments of reorientation when the characters process what just happened…and make a decision that leads to the next scene.

We do this in real life as well…we experience something moving or profound, and then decide how to respond. When a story lags, it’s almost always because of missing tension.

Mystery, on the other hand, is an intellectual process…like a riddle.

In a mystery, you don’t need to answer every question. In fact, it’s important to leave some questions unresolved, so the audience will still be thinking about them at the end of the book.

Be One Step Ahead of Your Readers
When I write I’m constantly asking myself what the readers are hoping for, or wondering about, at each point in the story. Our job as writers is to give them more than they ever bargained for.

Make it personal. As you develop your story, appeal to readers’ fears and phobias. Think of things that frighten you most, and use them. You can be sure many of your readers will fear them as well.

No matter what you write, good prose really is all about sharpening the suspense. Follow these hints, and you’ll keep your readers up way past their bedtime.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Memoir Anyone?

June 13, 2020

Another View of the Detroit Skyline

One of the first instincts of most authors is to write about what they’ve experienced. That works well, most of the time.

However, it’s my guess many readers have little desire right now to read fiction that brings to mind the disturbing reports about the pandemic and national demonstrations.

They’re looking instead for an escape.

As I mentioned before, I worked for many years in downtown Detroit’s Renaissance Center (seen above). I don’t normally think about that much, but it’s come to mind often lately since, like many of you, I’ve been cooped up and struggling with all the distractions.

However, I’ve never been one to imagine there’s too much on my plate. So, even though I already have those three troublesome fiction stories in the works, I’m now also contemplating a memoir.

It’s a different genre for me, but not one I’m totally unfamiliar with.

What is a Memoir?
A memoir is essentially an essay. While an essayist must color within the lines of fact, they must also be able to utilize many of the same components of a good fiction author.

Like show, don’t tell.

It’s still the author’s job to spin events into a compelling narrative, and make them shine for public consumption. In other words, put them together as something greater than the sum of their parts.

For those new to the form, I suggest you forget every bland essay you ever had to write, and I officially give you permission to banish your high school English teacher from your mind.

As an author, whether you write fiction or memoir, you are not there to inform or persuade. You are there to tell a story. Fiction is nothing without a strong protagonist. Neither is memoir…but guess who the protagonist is in a memoir?

It’s you.

The memoir is your story. It happened to you. You are the only one who can write it, and your voice needs to be sure, strong, dynamic and believable. A writer with a confident voice knows why they’re telling the story, and they know exactly where it’s going.

Their story says to the reader, from the very first line, hop in, we’re going for a ride, and I promise it’ll be worth your while.

But you’d better keep that promise, because I’ll let you in on a secret. Even if you have a perfect marriage, perfect kids, a great stock portfolio and can provide photographic proof you line-up your books in alphabetical order, no one wants to read 50,000 words about it!

The best stories always involve some sort of struggle. A happy ending only feels good because of the conflict that came before it. Otherwise, it’s just an ending.

Here’s another secret. The most startling, bright and joyful memories you have contain a lot of hidden conflict. Don’t believe it? Then you’d better look closer at your own happy memories to understand what you, or perhaps the people around you, endured to get there.

Maintain the Pace
When you do decide to write that memoir, keep your narrative taut. Maintain a steady release of information to the reader. Don’t bombard them with your whole life story in the first three paragraphs. By the same token, don’t leave out essential information until the very end.

Each sentence must give the reader a reason to keep going.

A finely-tuned memoir, like good fiction, will embed the reader deeply into the author’s world. It should be so deep they can’t hear anything outside of it.

In some ways, holding that tension is easier in memoir, because you already know which parts made your own heart beat a little faster. Your very worst nightmare should be a reader who walks away from your work with nothing more than they started.

There are many ways you can reach an audience. The only way to fail is to forget they’re there in the first place.

Honesty Counts
In a memoir, there are always real people involved. This can often make your efforts tricky, because you may not want to upset those people (family, friends and others) you’ve written into your story.

But it’s important you tell the truth…even if it makes your journey as an author more difficult.

One more note on honesty: Memoirs explore the concept of truth as seen through your eyes, but don’t write in a snarky manner, or with a bitter tone. The motivation for writing a memoir shouldn’t be to whine, exact revenge, or seek forgiveness. It should simply be to share your experience.

All while taking your readers on a journey they won’t forget.

This is essential to your success, because you must invite your reader far enough into your perspective they can draw their own conclusions. They need to experience your story, almost as if it was their own.

While your memoir is a true story, employing the same tried-and-true elements found in fiction will make it far more powerful.

Take readers on an emotional journey that motivates them to read the next chapter, and wonder about you after finishing the last page…then (best of all) makes them want to tell their friends about your book.

The best way to evoke these feelings in your readers is to connect your emotions, as the protagonist, with pivotal events happening throughout your narrative. The experiences you had carry more weight when you show how they affected the weeks, months and years after them. How did they change your approach to life?

Did the experience change how you thought about others or yourself? Did it help you become a better or wiser person in some way? This can be the hardest part of writing a memoir, because it requires so much introspection.

If you do it well, you will captivate your audience and leave them begging for more. But, more importantly, you’ll share your own authentic story with the world.

Now, get out there and write.

Stay safe.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Are You Wandering Aimlessly?

May 9, 2020


The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been unbelievable on so many levels. From the speed at which it spread, to the closing of borders, schools and universities…and the cancellation of conferences, seminars and businesses in general.

It’s been a long, dark road.

The discussions about opening up again are all interesting, but they seem to be split between encouraging massive bursts of productivity and gentle, realistic spurts of things that are more manageable.

So many authors I connect with are struggling these days to write and feel productive, because they’re home with cats, dogs, kids, partners and noise. But, even those without all of the noise and distractions are struggling, too, because being alone is not easy either.

This begs the question, again…What do we need to make the work of writing possible? What makes us feel like we’re productive in terms of creating finished pieces of writing?

I have written many posts over the last few years about mental blocks to writing, and how to work through them. Some of the posts I come back to often remind me of this…

We don’t find time to write, we have to make it.

It’s not just physical time but, more importantly, mental time that we need. That space in your mind that can be focused just on writing…and not everything else that’s going on. This is often hard to do when your head is full of uncertainty and anxiety.

Despite all the rhetoric, we have no idea when we will be allowed to travel again, how long things should be closed, or what kind of ‘normal’ we’ll return to when everything re-opens. As an indie author, if I don’t go to book-signings, or put out new work, I don’t get paid. So, I need to keep writing and being productive.

But, like a lot of you, I’m listless, both figuratively and literally. The emotional toll of all of this should not be under-estimated. Stress has a significant effect on our ability to focus on tasks that require concentration and cleverness.

The uncertainty of the extraordinary emotional strain is perhaps the worst of it – how long is this going to last, and what will the world be like when the pandemic is past?

Talk About It
Don’t just quietly acknowledge this, but make a small space in your online engagements with colleagues and friends to voice some of the anxieties we all feel. We’re not alone in all this, but we often feel like we are, and what we feel is what creates both emotional and mental static that can be hard to work around.

I’ve mentioned it to some old friends recently. I shared anxieties with several of them, found it was mutual and, surprisingly, it seemed to help (me, anyway).

To follow-up on my last post…we all need to seek a new balance, allowing ourselves time to work through the other stuff in our head right now. We need to acknowledge our own stress and anxiety, and be kind to ourselves by creating a work routine…pushing to get things done every day, so we don’t meander around aimlessly, feeling like we’re not doing anything useful at all.

This is not business-as-usual, so we need to let ourselves have a few more moments of listlessness than we usually allow.

I’m certain it will jump-start creativity, and I’m also sure my writing, and yours, will start again soon.

Stay safe.

**********

Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

**********

You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


%d bloggers like this: