My guest today, Rose Scott believes every good writer should be a good reader. I’m betting our RU Writing crew out there agrees!
Have you ever paid attention to what kinds of books move you and make you feel goosebumps? Of course you have. After all, you’re a writer, and writers are attentive to details. You probably have all kinds of techniques and stylistic devices in your writer’s toolbox, and here I’d like to share 8 ways to touch the heart of your audience. I’ve added each one of these to my own writer’s toolbox, and I think you’ll find them useful.
- Write about things you know and that interest you
Are you doing anything else besides writing? Let’s say you’re a letter carrier like Charles Bukowski. He wrote his autobiographical novel Post Office, where Hank Chinaski (Bukowski’ book alter ego) lives his routine life and does his daily job. Include some facts from the field you know best of all into your writing (but only if they’re relevant, of course). Your readers will learn something new.
Melody Beattie, a self-help books author, says, “Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people’s souls.” Your writer’s mission is to give readers new experiences and emotions they cannot enjoy in real life.
- Don’t write about things that don’t matter
Insignificant details confuse readers and make them feel like they’re on a wild goose chase. All your details must “speak” and have meaning for the plot. If you add any new storylines and flashbacks, be sure they help reveal your characters and move the story. By the way, try to get rid of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, because they only overload your writing. I usually use Hemingway Editor, which highlights those words and phrases that you can delete (hard to read sentences, passive voice, adverbs, etc.).
- Show, don’t tell
This is what Stephen King always repeats, “Show, don’t tell.” Well, it’s easy to say, but hard to do. And yet you must try. Don’t say that a character is angry, show what she does so the reader concludes she must be angry. Show, what exactly gives away her anger. For example, instead of writing “the girl was angry” write “I saw her hands trembling. She grabbed a soup plate and threw at me saying, “How could you lie to me?”
- Write about things that disturb people, make them angry, or reveal their secrets
People are always trying to find the answers to those questions that torture them . There are lots of things of which many of us are afraid. There are things we’d like to conceal. And if you write about these things, there’s a strong chance people can find the answers they seek and breathe a sigh of relief. No one likes to feel as if they are completely alone with their feelings.
- Make readers admire or loathe your characters
Your characters should catch your readers’ attention. They should give them an example, or teach something, maybe provoke love or hatred. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad, but they should all be bright. However, do your best to make them true to life so readers could believe such people live in their very own neighborhood. And one more detail: Please, don’t make your characters flat; don’t make them purely nice or purely mean – all people have both their good and bad sides.
- Make your characters choose and solve complex problems
Each of us faces the problem of choices, or has to handle any number of issues. And we all know how difficult it is. Show how your characters are like everyone else. They’re trying to live happy lives and make the right choices. Write what they think and how they assess and evaluate things. Who knows, maybe your novel will be a great help for the lost reader.
- Deceive reader’s expectations
I don’t mean you have to get rid of happy endings and various tropes, but do try to be unpredictable, make unexpected plot turns, and use clichés in your own manner. Make your readers say “WOW.” There’s no doubt that your writing won’t be absolutely original since other writers have probably already created something similar. However, it shouldn’t prevent you from writing your own story.
- Don’t try to imitate
The worst thing for the writer is to be an imitator. Plagiarism is a critical issue in education and business, and now it leaks into creative writing as well. It’s a pity to admit, but many writers are being accused of plagiarism, and they all have to face the consequences. Even if you adore how Virginia Woolf writes, don’t try to write just like she does. You won’t be as great, and you run the risk of plagiarism. Just find your own way and keep to it.
And one final thing: There’s an old saying, “Before becoming a good writer you have to become a good reader.” Read as much as possible, enjoy reading, make notes on stylistic devices writers use, and be an attentive reader. This is the surest pathway to better writing.
RU Writers, are you a voracious reader?
Join us on Monday for The Art of Conflict by Rachael Thomas
Bio: Rose Scott is a private teacher of Literature and enthusiastic about writing. Little by little she chases a dream to make an important contribution to the world of fiction.
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