Friday, August 5, 2011

How A Writer Grows: Thinking Like A Reader

I admit that I am a lazy reader.  I zone out in the middle of block after block of narration.  I miss things buried in the center of a paragraph.  I misapprehend.  My interest perks up for great dialogue, zippy and taut and interesting.  I prefer a plot so I can see where I am at any point along the way.  I'm an anxious tourist in a brand new city and I like the reassurance of having that kind of map, the plot, much-maligned in some circles.  It's embarrassing for an English major to admit these things, but they're all true in my case.

In fact, it's beneficial for me to be a lazy reader.  I have to assume a lot of other people are also lazy readers, especially when it comes to reading something for pleasure or entertainment.  They'll make mistakes in what they read of mine.  Make snap judgments.  Feel frustration if I drag or dig too deep into a paragraph of description.  Perhaps, if I'm too self-indulgent, my reader might wish to fling my book across the room.  Not good!

It took me a long time to realize that I should write books with an eye toward how I prefer to read them.  Chapters that snap along, not Patterson short, but not as long as a novella either.  That begin or end (or both, preferably) with something intriguing or important happening.  That drags me along in the story so I want to finish what I started.  That delivers an ending better than what my opening chapter promised.

If you're a reader, you should expect a writer to tempt you into his storytelling, make your journey one that you want to finish.  If you're a writer, you should pay close attention to how you read stories and what bad habits you have.  I'm guessing you're not the only one.  Let them inform how you write.  Experimentation can be fun to write, but it also has to be a pleasure to read.

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