Get Your Writing Noticed: Emotion – what keeps us involved!

Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in On Writing

. Making an emotional connection with readers is critically important. If you don’t, they can easily stop reading. We are all familiar with emotions. They are what makes us have a great day or a bad one. But how does a writer use them to connect with readers? One of the most basic emotions is desire. If your characters are motivated, if they have desire, if only for a glass of water, then readers will feel connected. And the more they want something, the more interesting your story becomes, as the reader is left wondering what the character will do to achieve their goal. Desire is the basic emotion which keeps us involved in a story. If your main character wants something, you are obliged to put obstacles in their way too. Obstacles create conflict. Conflict will inspire an emotional response in your reader and keep them turning the pages. Some other ways to build an emotion connection with the reader are: * Creating embarrassment for a character. By making the reader feel that embarrassment you will build a connection with them. * Having a character abused in some way. Natural sympathy will be evoked if you do something terrible to a character we have come to know. * Placing opposing characters in the same situation. There’s a natural tension when opposing characters meet. Your readers will feel it if the opposing characters views have been shown to them. * Fear creates tension in the reader too. If we know the murderer is coming up the stairs, and the woman is having a shower, we fear the outcome. * Anticipation. If you foreshadow, occasionally, without explaining exactly what is going to happen, readers will anticipate something happening. * Surprise readers. Readers will enjoy your writing if something surprising happens. They won’t have any idea what is going to happen next. * Excitement is a powerful writing tool. You can move the plot fast, anticipate, and spell out what might happen, and then keep the reader waiting. All the above methods combined will produce excitement in your reader. One of the hardest parts for a writer is in creating authentic emotional scenes. The ability to understand how it feels to be in an emotional situation and to express that feeling in a genuine and new way, without resorting to cliche or to simply naming how characters feels, is vital to creating truly engaging writing. People look for writing that truly explains how it feels to be in each situation. And they can tell if you haven’t represented the reality in a way that’s believable. I wish you well with this, one of the hardest challenges of becoming a good writer in the 21st or any century. This post is the sixth on a voyage exploring the world of getting your writing noticed. The next post, the last post, covers the impact...

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Get Your Writing Noticed: How to grab your reader’s attention!

Posted by on Jul 6, 2012 in On Writing

. A key aspect of writing for the 21st century, applicable to non fiction and fiction, is grabbing the reader’s attention. The number of distractions people have these days was covered in my last post. Here are some techniques for grabbing the reader up front: 1. Establish credibility. If you’re being published by a major publishing house this will help, but even if you’re not you can put your key credential up front. If you spent 20 years as a gardener and you’re writing a book on gardening I will want to know that. ‘Gardening from 20 years experience” is a good title in my opinion. So don’t be shy. Tell us why we should read your book. And tell us quickly. 2. For non fiction, make it practical. I am writing a guide to social media and making it practical is a key consideration. Two of the top five Sunday Times non fiction books this week are practical in some way. 3. Other favorite themes for non fiction, which grab readers are war, for the armchair fighters among us, violent crimes, to make us glad we’re safe, and cooking/homecraft. These areas make up most the remainder of the top non fiction slots. 4. Start in the middle of the action. This standard piece of advice for fiction writers, to cut out the long preamble, to go straight into the action, is also what non fiction readers want these days. In non fiction we want a quick way to move to the key areas of our interest. So let us get to the heart of it, fast. 5. Make a bold statement. In commercial fiction there is often a big scene right at the beginning. This could be a murder, a kidnapping, an interview or a disagreement. The purpose of the scene is to hook the reader in. Similarly, in non fiction you can make a bold statement. If you have something new to say offer it up early, then let us read the rest of your book to find out what’s next. Digital, whether through blogs, Twitter, Facebook or video/audio are all vitally important to success these days. Whatever you are writing, consider how you can build an online presence which will use the skills you have. The demand for online interaction is high and likely to get even higher. Publishing and being successful with just a printed book is becoming less and less likely. Other aspects of grabbing your reader’s attention include titles and keywords. Here is a post I wrote, on my social media blog, explaining key words in simple terms. Beyond key words is the whole area of titles. This is an art, which includes many elements difficult to distill. Taste, fashion and culture are all part of the choosing of titles. My suggestion is for you to consider the most popular current titles in your...

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The 7 Most Useful Books on How to Write Fiction – for those who didn’t get it yet!

Posted by on Dec 25, 2011 in On Writing

These are the books on writing that excited me most when I read them.   1. Solutions for Writers by Sol Stein. First published in 2005 this is the essential guidebook on how to write for our times. Broken up into sections and covering both fiction and non fiction it contains a mother lode of practical advice on issues from the writer’s job, to the keys to swift characterisation, to adding resonance. What grabbed me about this book though was the focus on practical advice. Almost every page of my copy has a section underlined and a corner turned. This is the book I turn to again and again. If you can only afford one book on writing make it this one.  2. Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maas. First published in 2004 this is the workshop book for Mr Maas’s famous Writing the Breakout Novel book and training modules. Its three sections cover a wide range of topics under the section headings character development, plot development and general story techniques. I went for the workbook version because I like to fool myself that I’m focused on the practical. The exercises at the end of each chapter made real sense to me too. They made me think about how to apply the excellent writing observations Donald describes so well. My copy of this book is heavily underlined and there are notes sticking out of it. I also return to Donald’s book at critical points in the development of a manuscript. This workbook should definitely be in your library, especially if commercial success is something you aspire to. If you want to write and then starve, you definitely won’t need it.   3. Conflict, Action & Suspense, by William Noble. First published in 1994 this book provides step by step guidance on setting the stage, creating and building suspense and bringing it all to a gripping conclusion. My copy is poodle eared. For me suspense is one of the most important aspects of any novel. It’s why I keep reading. It’s what keeps me turning those pages. It’s what Michael Connelly does to make me want to buy every book he writes. What Harlan Coben does to make every book he writes go to the top of the bestseller lists. If you want to write suspense well, this is the book for you. 4. A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman. First published in 1991 Diane’s book is a grand tour of the realm of the senses. In it she describes the evolution of the kiss, the sadistic cuisine of eighteenth century England, the chemistry of pain and a lot more. Structured into chapters for each sense, including synthesia (yes, it’s the combining of constituent elements into a single or unified entity), this unusual and thought provoking book is a treasure filled garden for those who are interested in helping readers see what...

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A Byzantine Romance

Posted by on May 23, 2011 in On Writing

Under the Comnenian family, the ruling family of the Byzantine Empire who halted the decline of Byzantium from 1081 to 1185, Byzantine writers in Constantinople reintroduced the ancient Greek romance novel. Their era, the era of the Crusades, was also reflected in these stories. These novels span the gap between the last surviving romance novels of late antiquity and the early medieval romantic revival. Only four of these novels survive today, just one of which is written in prose. And only two have been translated into English. This post will focus on one of those, Drosilla and Charikles, by Niketas Eugenianos, (c 13th c) translated by Joan Burton (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 2004) The story of Drosilla and Charikles is interesting for many reasons. Here is the plot: Belthandros, a Roman (Byzantine) prince and youngest son of king Rhodophilos, quarrels with his father and leaves his home to seek his fortune. After wandering in the hostile lands of Anatolia and dealing with Turkish bandits, he reaches Tarsus in Armenian Cilicia. There he sees a fiery star in the depths of a river (a metaphor for love) and follows it to the north. He finds a castle built of precious gems, which belongs to King Eros. It is full of magnificent statues and automatons. Belthandros leaves his escorts outside and enters the castle alone. There he sees an inscription that tells of his predestined love between him and Chrysantza, the daughter of the king of Great Antioch. He is summoned by the lord of the castle, Eros, who announces to him a beauty contest at which Belthandros must give a wand to the most beautiful among forty princesses. The contest takes place and Belthandros gives the wand to the most beautiful princess, whereupon all that surrounds him suddenly disappears “like a dream”, leaving him alone in the castle. At this point he resolves to go out and seek his princess. After a short journey he arrives in Antioch where he meets the king of the city, is accepted as his liegeman, and soon becomes an intimate of the royal household. There he meets the king’s daughter Chrysantza, whom he recognizes as the princess he chose at the Castle of Eros. Although Chrysantza has never seen him before, she too recognizes him, and the two fall in love. Two years and two months however pass before their first love meeting, which takes place secretly at night in the royal garden. The meeting ends suddenly when a jealous courtier discovers them and Belthandros is put in jail. In order to save her lover’s life, Chrysantza convinces her faithful chambermaid, Phaidrokaza, to take the blame by declaring that the prince had visited her instead. The king believes the story and a forced marriage between Belthandros and Phaidrokaza takes place. The following days the couple continues to meet secretly, but soon the situation becomes unsatisfactory, and they decide to flee, together with the chambermaid and two retainers. On the way, they cross a flooded river, where Phaidrokaza and the two...

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