Writers are always posed with that age old question: “Why do you write?” and my answer has always been changing. Initially I wrote because I wanted to. I had stories in my mind and I wanted to write them regardless of who read them. Then I wanted to write so I could be published. Then I wrote because I felt that it was who I was whether I got published or not. Then I did get published and realized I actually did care who read my stories (or not).
At this point in time I feel like I have to write, not only because I feel a need to, but also because I want people to fall in love with my stories. I want my stories to mean something to everyone.
Appealing to the Reader
Not everyone is going to love my stories. I have already made peace with this truth. I just have to look at some of my submissions to know that sometimes what I’ve written isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Especially when they tend to be dark.
As someone who reads a lot, I have come across books that just didn’t appeal to me either (last Wednesday Book Review for instance) so I know it happens. Not everyone is a Stephen King fan even though he’s one of the most renowned horror writers. I’m not reading Fifty Shades because it’s not what I would read, and from what I’ve seen in the writing, I wouldn’t enjoy it for that aspect either.
Nonetheless, I have received a number of compliments and comments from people who do enjoy how I write rather than what I write. There are books that I didn’t enjoy but the writing still drew me in. Which made me once again ask why I write but more importantly, am I writing for readers or am I writing for myself with them in mind?
The answer was neither. I was writing for myself and hoping others will enjoy the story as much as I did.
As a writer, you know what is happening in the story with greater detail than the reader. You know what the scenes, people, and world look like. Question is, are you translating that same world into your stories and doing so with writing that is appealing to the readers?
Writing that confuses or bores the reader is a definite no no. The story may be good but if the writing itself is tedious and drawn out, most readers will add it to their DNF (Did Not Finish) pile. If the reader isn’t engrossed in some way to the story, you have already lost. How do you overcome this?
- Appeal to their mind
This isn’t the common list of do’s and don’t when it comes to writing. It’s observations as a reader who is also a writer. One of these observations is: How often do I doubt the information I am reading. Even in fantasy , science fiction, or horror, the story and characters need to be believable and the writing non-distracting. I need to suspend disbelief long enough that my mind is lost in the book and not in the world around me.
This means no inconsistencies.
This means not reading words I have to look up or think about too often throughout the reading.
This means not noticing grammar or spelling mistakes or other things that remind me I’m reading a book.
- Appeal to the senses
It’s really difficult to read a book happening in a white space – where I have no idea where everything is happening. Reading there’s a waterfall, mountain, building, city or anything but don’t know if it’s small or big, what colours, shape or details there are, let alone what’s around it.
She saw the large mountain to her left and a dark forest on her right as she drove. The forest was eerie, as though creatures were waiting to pounce out from between the trees.
The morning sun peeked over the jagged, grey mountains to her left. Their tips were peppered white with last night’s snow. What little sunlight there was, glossed over the dense pine forest on her right, casting much of her view into shadow. She clutched the steering wheel tighter, ignoring the imagined creatures she thought ready to pounce from the twisting branches.
A little bit of detail allows us to see what the character is seeing, and feel what the character is feeling, putting us into their shoes. This works as well for all the senses: sight, smell, touch, hear, taste as well as other things such as sense of movement (the cat slinked between the couches), or emotion (his face and chest filled with a deep warmth when he saw her smile).
Combined into a full narrative, and reading is suddenly an immersive, enjoyable, experience.
Have you found yourself lost inside a book or unable to get into a book? Share your experiences with me 🙂
I am still completely in love with Tolkien’s writing and his stories. LoTR and Silmarillion are two of the books that have had – and continue to have – the most impact on me. When it comes to Afrikaans definitely Karel Schoeman and PG du Plessis.
Another book which has stayed with me for over 15 years is All Quiet On the Western Front – a definite must-read if you haven’t read it. But there have been so many books that have managed to pull me into another world or another time…
Then, of course, there is a certain JYA I think I will be crazy about… 😀 😀 😀
Hahaha! After those literary genius authors you mentioned, I think I’ll do a great job of JYA #fakeittillyoumakeit
But what about those books pulled you in? Obviously from Tolkien it’s his masterful world building that encompassed every aspect. What draws you into a book?
Is it ok to save this good advice in my Writer Wannabees file to use in my Advanced Writing class?
Oh of course. Please do 🙂
This is great advice and so true. We all need this reminder sometimes.
So what book completely immersed you in its world? What made it so believable/enjoyable?
Nthato, I purposely didn’t answer your question because it’s difficult. 😛
Though, I guess I’d have to say (for right now, there are so many books I could answer with) is The Selection Series by Kiera Cass. I don’t think I’ve ever read a series so fast before and she created such an interesting fantasy world that I would love to visit, but I would never want to live there.
Haha I figured you were avoiding the question!
Didn’t you mentioned The Selection Series in a very recent blog post too? Must be a great series indeed haha.
I’ve been reviewing the books lately because I’ve been reading them one right after the other, lol.
I need me a series like that.
Yeah, this is the first series in a long time that I’ve really been into.
I have found myself unable to get into books. Many times. I have a rather specific taste when it comes to writing styles and a lot of books, especially recently, have been thorough let downs. We do have different tastes after all.
Yes we do have different tastes, but what about the writing style works for you? The tone? Pace? Word use? Style? Perspective? What makes a good book good for you?
Hmm. I despise flowery language. I’d rather focus on the characters and actions than two paragraphs describing how the moon shone off the snowy landscape. Fast paced. Any tone is fine.
Haha flowery language. I think there’s a limit to flowery imagery for any story but don’t you want to know how green the meadow was or are you happy with just bare descriptions just for setting?
I’d assume the meadow is green. What I’d like to know is if it wasn’t green. Why the hell isn’t the meadow green? What’s wrong with it? Are we going to have zombie cows now? Etc.
hahaha sure sure I understand. Unless it was a parched meadow more yellow than green because it’s drought season. I guess they could say it was drought season and you can assume the meadow is more yellow than green?
It’d be a hell of a drought for a meadow to become yellow though. Damn that’d be a tragedy.
This was a great read and very insightful. I think the only thing we differ on is setting. For me, I’m very focused on the plot and character development. If I feel like the author is taking too much time to explain what the setting looks like, I start getting impatient and think “Hurry up, already! Get back to the story!” My latest novel is deliberately set in a minimalist, greyscale office environment, partially because it suited the atmosphere of hopeless, suffocating apathy I wanted to convey, and partially just because I don’t like spending too much time describing the setting. I do agree that absolutely no setting description is hard to get into, though. Give me some idea of where the characters are, at least. Just don’t spend ten pages talking about it if it’s not important to the plot or character development.
I’m a big fan of fantasy (which lends itself to lengthy setting descriptions just because the settings are often fictional so they need some extra explaining) but I think Tamora Pierce does well with balancing all the writing techniques you described. She gives her readers a good idea of where the characters are without making you feel like she’s dragging it out too much and she makes you love her characters as if they were your best friends. It’s been many years since I read her Circle of Magic, The Circle Opens, and The Will of the Empress books (separate series but all connected by the same characters) and I still think about her character, Briar, almost daily.
Oh yes absolutely. Finding that balance between setting and plot is very important. I can’t remember the book but it was also fantasy and there was too much description and I was getting bored, as you said. So if the author explains they are in a forest, and gives a good description of the place, there’s no need to describe every single tree the character walks by. It’s a tree. Move on.
Also, I absolutely agree with you regarding setting up the mood and atmosphere through a setting. The whole minimalist greyscale may sound boring but with the right action, characters and sequence around it, it can be perfect. Good luck with your novel.
Lastly, mentioning Tamora Pierce’s books and how you still think of the characters long after you’ve read the book, is exactly what I hope to achieve as well. An immersive world, with a compelling narrative and real, relatable characters that people will recall years later. That is my dream goal.
Happy writing! And thanks for the comment 🙂
Pingback: Appealing to the Reader — A-Scribe To Describe | Arrowhead Freelance and Publishing
Pingback: Inspiration – Recreation into Writing | A-Scribe To Describe
It was good.. As a author myself i can feel you… #behind her
Thank you. 🙂