Friday, January 9, 2015
What makes a story seem so real that it tricks the reader into feeling like she's been transported to another place, time, or situation?
It comes from a writer who can create magic with her words.
But how? I've thought a lot about this question - especially while reading a story that has cast its spell upon me! I've scrutinized numerous novels and have come to the conclusion that there are several elements that must all come together if the writer is to compose a story that can magically "transport" the reader.
Here is a list of things I'm working on to become a wizard of words:
1- Know your story. What I mean by that statement is that it's not enough to have done research: I must know my protagonist, plot, setting, antagonist, etc. so well that when I weave my web on the page it sounds like I'm telling a story straight from my heart. That takes time.
2- Be a wordsmith. While most of you know that I love unusual words, I'm also prone to including a unique word in a story when a more ordinary word might be a better choice. (It's one of my weaknesses as a writer that I'm working on this year!) That being said, it's also not good to become lazy in our choice of words when writing what we hope will be a special story. Selecting just the right word can make all the difference in our story's ability to whisk the reader away.
3- Look for the unique. Whether it's choosing our protagonist's name, occupation, or fatal flaw, it's important to make unique choices. Certainly an imaginative plot is something all readers expect. No one wants to read a rehash of something that's been written before. Quirky, whimsical, and/or extraordinary should be the writer's new normal.
4- Plant "story seeds." It's always a treat when an author plants a small idea (story seed) at the beginning of her novel and then allows the story seed to come to fruition at the culmination of the book. When a writer can do that, it adds complexity and believability to her story. It's an important technique in helping the reader to leave his or her world of reality behind. (J.K. Rowling is a master at this.)
5- Use first person &/or internal dialogue. While I've not yet written a manuscript in first person, I do use internal dialogue quite a bit in my writing. Using one, or both, of these techniques allows the reader to get inside the head of the protagonist; it's a way of feeling closer to the main character. (Much like getting closer to a friend when she bares her soul.)
6- Find your funny bone. Including humor in my writing is something I've decided will always be a challenge for me, but I'm constantly working at it. Who doesn't enjoy a good laugh while reading a book? It's not only a way to invite readers into your story, it's an excellent way for them to leave their seemingly humdrum life (and possibly their problems) behind.
7- Use a storyteller voice. This doesn't necessarily mean you break the fourth wall, but it does mean that you compose your story like you're writing a letter to a friend. One of the first pieces of writing advice I ever received still stands as one of the best: Do you want people to notice what a talented writer you are? Or, do you want readers to love your story? (Author, Carolyn J. Rose) As writers we all probably hope peers and readers like our stories. However, if we're too concerned about what our peers think, we'll probably let our readers down. After all, isn't a great writer one who makes you forget that her story didn't always exist somewhere in time?
These are just a few ways we can magically "transport" our readers.
~ Hope you all find the magic in your writing this year! ~