Monday, October 19, 2009

How to clearly show your story to your reader

“Writing is telepathy.”

I read that in Stephen King’s book, On Writing. It changed the way I looked at writing. The reason was not so much because it was funny or clever but it was because it made my understanding of writing so much clearer.

That is our job as writers. We need to convey with clarity every thought and emotion our characters express. They need to cry when our character hurts and hide their eyes when the evil is fast approaching. We need to transport thoughts and that comes through the senses.

While there is no simple way to build tension or infuse emotion there are some things that are fundamental:

1. Make sure you engage every sense, including a sense of smell, on every page. Use creative nouns and different ways to explain the senses.

2. Connect a physical sense to an emotion. Don’t smell a sweet flower. Smell the intense softness of a lilac and let it pull them back to spring nights of hide-and-go-seek in grandma’s back yard. You can further infuse the emotion by making the darkness an enveloping blanket or a deep black shroud.

3. Be true to the character of your story. A city girl won’t know the difference between scratch and mash, but a chicken farmer will. If you want her to know that, however, it can add an interesting dimension. You must make clear that you know it is unusual.

4. Clue the reader in. While you don’t want to interrupt the story to explain something to the reader, you need to clue them in. Find ways to weave details in the story that the reader may not always know. Readers read to explore; help them do it.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of the skills necessary to engage readers, these elements are a part of every good story. Go back through your current manuscript and incorporate these elements in to your story.

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Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at

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1 comment:

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