Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

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.

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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;

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

How Do You Write During a Crisis?

April 8, 2020

Writing can be lonely work in the best of times.

As we’ve entered the national emergency collective state, the news about COVID-19 has become pretty much all anyone can think about. It certainly made concentrating on this blog, not to mention my fiction writing, hard to get started.

And then I realized that what I actually wanted to talk about hasn’t changed much at all.

Even though I’m no longer young, I’m very lucky and grateful to be healthy and able to work at home.

What this ordeal has made clear to me, though, is how deep my lack-based thinking goes. My house is paid for. The pantry and freezer are full. My spectacular bride and one of my sons are with me. How I can look at my fully-stocked pantry and fixate on the fact I didn’t buy an extra bag of rice?

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? This is a moment when we are all forced into stillness with everything, including our fears. But it can also be an excellent opportunity to learn how to take better care of ourselves and each other.

And those are lessons that extend to our creative process.

If you find yourself at home now with hours of time that could be spent writing, but you can’t seem to get started…it’s all right. You don’t have to.

I’m going to say that again, you do not have to write. If you want to, great. If it makes you feel good, by all means, do it.

But if you’re too scattered, distracted or unfocused, as I sometimes am, give yourself a pass. After all, our very foundations are being stress-tested right now. At this moment, we are certainly not in a position to force ourselves into productive shapes.

Consider Not What You Want, But What You Need
We do not have to create. We can find space for more. We can re-read a book we love. Watch a movie. Binge watch Netflix.

More than that, we can check on elderly neighbors or bake a pie (well, my wife would probably chase me out of the kitchen for that one). We can donate to our community food bank or watch a whole season of reality television in an afternoon, because it makes us laugh and keeps us sane.

Several of my friends, including one who now lives in Florida, sit in our respective houses and text each other every weeknight during the televised game show Jeopardy, answering the questions as if we were still going to the local pub for trivia. It’s not the same, of course, but we all enjoy it, and it’s the fastest half hour of the week.

We can use these moments, if we are healthy, safe, secure and lucky enough to have our friends and all of those other things, to get clear on what really feeds us. And then to give it to ourselves with no strings attached.

Then later, whenever we’re ready and that beam of sunlight finally breaks through, we can 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.


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