First, choose your reader

We who love to read fiction could serve our passion with a little analysis of our preferences. I suspect that we all enjoy reading material that manages to place us in the scene, narrative that feels genuine, believable. Readers love writers who craft their stories in this way. Their writing draws us in from the first paragraph, tempts us to care about the characters, and leads us through the story, eager to learn what happens next.

What’s the key? Is there a secret? Well. successful writers and teachers of writing put forth a variety of theories and suggestions. Here, for what they might be worth, are a few tips gleaned from my own experience.

Good writing, I argue, begins with the reader. First, choose your reader. Wait, you protest, I want a lot of people to read my story. Are you talking about one single person? Yes, exactly. Before you write, imagine that individual. Someone with whom you’d enjoy a relaxed, friendly conversation. Share your story with that one person. As you write, keep this new friend in mind. To simplify, let’s imagine that it’s a female. Could be either gender, sure, but we’ll choose female. Go to bat for her as you write. Represent her interests. Anticipate her questions, her need to know certain details. Clarify them for her. Specify. Create a picture she can visualize. A vague long drive to town becomes 12 miles on a curving two-lane road in a rain that comes down sideways. This isn’t hard. It just takes discipline.

We readers love details that are sensory, those that emphasize or suggest what we can hear, smell, taste, see, feel. Puts us right there, in the scene, even in the character’s mind, gut, if you wish, and heart.

Try it. Choose a reader. Draft a story for that reader alone. Create a realistic character or three, describe them briefly and simply, using details the reader can see, smell, or feel. Place your characters in settings that you describe using sensory details. Give them voice. Let them talk as real people talk. Move your story along by answering your reader’s questions about these characters, what they are thinking, what drives them, and what happens to them next.

I can’t wait to read what you write.


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