Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The next level

How involved do you want your reader to be in what you write?

A few months ago, I set up a get-together for the ladies in my Bible study class. I wanted to create an environment where we could share and encourage. A place to get to know each other on a deeper level than in the church hallways where only a hello or goodbye gets said.

It hasn't been that easy. I've had to bring ice-breakers and think up games and techniques to encourage them to open up and trust each other enough to go to that next level. It puts a lot of pressure on me and I can't say I always enjoy it. I was hoping it would be more spontaneous but it isn't.

Neither is the involvement we hope for from our readers. Whether it's here on our blogs, an article or in a book, it takes a certain amount of effort to get a reader to react. I've had to learn how to edit my work, come up with good plots, hooks and mostly be sure I pack that emotional factor in there. I want my reader to finish with a feeling--but not boredom.

So how involved do you want your reader to be in what you write? Are you giving it the effort it takes? And what have you found works best?

29 comments:

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I want my readers to be living the story experience as they read the words on the pages. I suspect I have a long way to go, but would welcome any tips for sure!!

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I agree with Eileen in wanting the readers to be living the story. I hope that there is enough character development and story line that the reader can say, "That could be me." or "I forgot where I was when I read this story because I was so drawn into it."

Natalie said...

I think I focus on characters and their relationships. When I read if I love the MC, even if the story isn't all that engaging, I read to the end. I want to see if she ends up with the boy, or if he makes it home alive. Characters make or break a story for me.

Sassy Granny ... said...

Since my primary writing is done via blog, and since my primary audience is the one harboring my grandchildren, my hope (and prayer) is that they'll one day know how HUGE a factor was the Lord in their grandmother's life. It is my further hope they'd long to follow the trail I'm leaving behind.

So, when I write it is with them in mind. Words often bubble up from my heart; words I long for them to comprehend and value. It keeps my eye trained on Him, the source of my strength & joy. May He one day be theirs too.

Blessings,
Kathleen

Jennifer Shirk said...

I want my readers to smile somewhere in my story and then at the end close the book with that warm happily-ever-after fuzzy feeling. :)

(Hey, I have high hopes!) LOL!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Even in my non-fiction work, I use fictional techniques such as show, don't tell. As a reader, I know if I laugh, cry, or come away from a book wanting to talk about it, the author succeeded.

I try to write stories that I would find satisfying as a reader.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jessica said...

I really would like to do this, but I'm not sure I do. I'm sorry about the work with your group. It's hard to open up sometimes. But kudos to you for holding those meetings. I really think they'll bear some fruit. :-)

Janna Qualman said...

I want them on the same level I'm on, deep in there with connection to the story and the characters' whose lives are involved. I think I understand this better than ever before, and I feel that need provoking me every time I sit to write. I just hope it all unfolds as I'd have it to.

Great post, Terri. I appreciate your thoughts on this.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

My dream is for God to use this ministry of writing to bring healing to broken readers. Perhaps that sounds insane, but it's true. That's always a HUGE focus when I sit down and write.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Engaging the reader is essential. I'm reading up on Donald Maass' workbook, scratching through it in hopes of improving.
~ Wendy

Jody Hedlund said...

It is hard work to get our reader involved! Hooking, bringing depth to characters, showing vs. telling, not "giving" everything away. All that helps to involve the reader. Great analogy with your group!

Analisa said...

I think for the most part if you find the story you write interesting you may be on the right path. Do you want to know what happens next in your book. Do you think about it at inappropiate times. When I read a good book, I have to make myself put it down to do the normal stuff. I actually thought of taking one book to church with me to read in the five minutes before church started. I was that hooked on the story.(That book was Tender Graces by the way) So make sure you are enjoying what you are writing and take the risk and go outside the norm. I like to write a character that is not like me at all. Maybe someone I would not like all the time but still facinates me.

I hope your bible study gets better. I find the more open I am the more open others are. Sometimes people view spritual leaders as perfect and have a hard time opening up in front of them.

Lazy Writer said...

I want my readers to feel like they are right there in the book with my characters. It is something I continue to work on every day.

K.M. Weiland said...

I smell a trick question. ;) We *all* want the reader involved up to his neck. We want him to be so deeply involved in the lives of our characters that he starts dreaming about them when he falls asleep!

As for methods, it always comes back to plain, simple, solid storytelling. And that, of course, is an ever-evolving journey!

Lin Floyd said...

for groups it takes a while to build trust. I find it helps to teach some concept and then write and share with little criticisms at first just support and encouragement. I definitely want my reader to take some thing away and it's a challenge to get the right title or hook and conclusion to do that.

Melissa Marsh said...

If I'm bored writing it, I know the reader is going to be bored reading it! I usually try to keep this in the back of my mind when I'm writing.

Gaia said...

I'm still learning, hope I am not being a bore. Cheerio.

sarah said...

What works for me is when I write from my heart and from what I know. That's where my passion is. Creating characters and story lines are easier for me than showing not telling. I have a friend who writes so vividly, it's like watching a video clip. I want to write like that.

Andrea said...

I want my reader to be touched deeply leaving a change that lasts through eternity. Guess you can say I want a miracle when I write.

Blessings, andrea

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Well, Terri, I think reader involvement, or evoking an emotional reaction from the reader is the gold standard in authoring. I’m never gonna be on the NYT bestseller list, or Oprah, or any other big name thing. But, when I get a reader email, or Amazon comment, or meet a reader at a book club that says, “Such and such in your book really moved me.” Then, I just float around for a bit because that means I connected with that reader in such a visceral way that they were transported to my fictional world and 100 percent absorbed in and by it. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Amy Tate said...

I try to spend a lot of time watching my children interact with their friends(all without being the obnoxious mom)because they give me clues as to how they engage with one another. They've given me lots of great ideas for my dialogue. My hope is that kids will relate with my one or more of my characters, and take the journey with them. That's what I think is so special about books.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

the books i enjoy the best are the ones when i'm so much apart of the story i feel like it originated with me. like i'm the heroine going through everything she's going through: a super bad ex boyfriend, a dreamy current bf, a frugal dad or a quirky coworker....and then i find myself looking for those people! :) perhaps i need therapy myself. :)

jeannie
The Character Therapist

Karen Lange said...

These are good questions! I want my readers to be involved in what I write, and most importantly, I want them to take something of value away with them. Sometimes I give it more effort than other times, but am working on being more diligent. One thing that helps me is to just relax and trust the Lord to bring it forth. When I do, things flow more easily. Blessings to you and your readers:)

Nancy said...

When I write about something that grabs me, even if it's in fiction, I usually find that it resonates with readers, too.
I'm trying something fairly new. I'm adding humor to my writing. What I think is funny, may not be funny to others. But I'd like to branch out. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Helen Ginger said...

I'd like my readers to be so engaged in the book that they lose track of time and want to keep reading even when they do realize how much time they've spent reading. I want them to be rushing from page to page, anxious to find out about the characters and what will happen next.

Wouldn't that be wonderful.

Helen
Straight From Hel

carolynyalin said...

Some great comments/tips here!

Greg C said...

Obviously I have a lot of work to do in keeping my readers interested. I am working on it though and that is all we can do sometimes. Just keep pushing onward.

Kathryn Magendie said...

i want them so engaged they forget about me and completely enter the world of my characters, and then when they are close to coming to the end of it, they wish it weren't going to end, and when it does, they say "dang...." and then they can't get the characters out of their minds.

Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

Patience is the key, as far a your women's group is cocerned. Building the continuity and the trust takes time and the longer you al meet togeterh the more and more you will start to open up to each other.

One of the things my small group does is a bible study. It is a short study, not in dept, something we can do in our morning devotional time and then we come together and discuss it each week. We have also from time to time done something a simple as sharing each week one good thing that has happen and one bad thing that has happen.

Don't give up, even after 7 years of meeting with my small group we still from time to time hit a snag. But it is worth it to have those relationships in your life.

Shalom
Robin