Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 7, 2012

Will Your Manuscript Keep Your Readers Reading?

Will your manuscript keep you reader reading?  Over at Writers In The Storm, New York Times Bestselling author Susan Squires wrote a great article titled, WriterStrong: 8 Tips To Bring Your Readers Along For The Ride that helps you make sure they do. 

You can read an excerpt below, but make sure you click the link at the end to read the full article.  Susan gives lots of examples from books she has written to help us understand all her points.

As writers, we want them addicted to our books. It’s our burden to help readers suspend disbelief and come along with us for the ride.

When you write paranormal romances, your world may contain vampires, or magic or time travel. That’s a lot of disbelief to suspend. One wrong step and the book is put down, perhaps never to be picked up again.

So how do you get readers to suspend disbelief?

I’ve found that the main ways are familiarity, immersion, and speed. I’ll give some examples at the end from my books.

Your readers will follow you anywhere if they believe in your characters, your settings, and your events. So you must make them very real and immediate. As you do that, you have to keep two things in mind: recognition, and immersion.

The reader has to recognize who or what you are describing so they can relate to them.

You know how to do this. For settings, use five senses in your descriptions. Imagine how it would be to really be in that scene you’re setting. Choose a few evocative details so you don’t bog down the story (see “speed” below). Make sure the reader recognizes the description, so they can relate. (That means very few made up words, especially at first.)

Your reader has to recognize your characters too. How do you accomplish it?

  • Make your characters complex with opposite traits and flaws. You want your readers to be thinking, “I know a person like that.”
  • Be sure your characters react like real people. “I’d do that, too, if I was confronted with that situation.” That’s why you DON’T write the “too dumb to live” heroine. No one wants to identify with someone too dumb to live, even if sometimes we are.
  • Make your characters vulnerable, because vulnerability gets us on their side immediately.

As you begin your story, don’t start out with an info-dump about the world, the society, the rules of the paranormal, or anything else. Start with a setting or event that readers can relate to. (Or, if you don’t start with the familiar, at least give your reader some pretty quickly.)

Let the weirdness creep in gradually, like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs the reader can follow to your new world. It helps if you put yourself in your character’s place. What would she be thinking about her world? She wouldn’t deliver a lecture on politics. She wouldn’t explain that the light switches work differently than they do on earth. Layer the detail in through the character’s eyes. That way we’ll believe it.

This also achieves what I call immediacy. Readers need to be inside the action, right along with the character, in order for the world outside the book to disappear. That’s why showing what happens, and not having the author tell you what’s happening, is so important. Every time the author intrudes, it gives the reader a chance to say, “Oh, right, this is just a book.” We don’t want them to remember it’s just a book.

Let’s talk speed. If you keep your story moving, readers don’t have time to think.

They can’t help but go along. They’re flipping pages, dying to see what happens. They’ll buy a whole lot more strangeness when the book creates a sense of urgency. That’s why it’s important to start in the middle of the action, not only for the book as a whole, but also in each scene. That doesn’t mean you can’t leave space for the reader to catch their breath. But the book should gather momentum until it’s racing toward the ultimate moment.

Click here to read the rest.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Oh, do I love this, Kathy! Thank you for posting this 🙂 And do you or anyone else know if our Craft Day is still on?

    Like

  2. This is a great post with so much useful info. Thanks, Kathy.

    Like

  3. Thank you, thank you! This post was so awesome. 🙂

    Like


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