Terri-Lynne DeFino (bogwitch64) wrote,
Terri-Lynne DeFino

Taking your reader by the hand

I wrote this in an email to a friend this morning:

Being a writer means leading your readers through your story without them ever feeling your hand in theirs.

This has been one of the toughest lessons learned; and not only for me. I do a lot of crits for people. I see it often. Overwriting. Author intrusion. Tell and tell and tell. We are so in love with words that we can't help wanting to make them do all sorts of lovely acrobatics. The problem with that is, the story veers off course. It becomes about the author instead of the reader and the story. Look at me! it says sometimes softly, sometimes not.

As writers, we have to learn how to take control of our love of words. There are other ways to make them do those acrobatics without intruding ourselves into the text. In the email to my friend, I wrote the above to make a point about knowing when to use short, staccato sentences, long panicky ones, long flowy ones, etc. By creating a rhythm, the reader is led into tension, or panic, or ease. Not every paragraph can evoke so much--if it did the reader would put the book down out of sheer exhaustion. But when the natural rhythm of your story suddenly takes on a staccato beat, the reader's heart pumps just a little harder, she reads a little faster. Without really noticing it, she feels the tension--and not once did (or should) the writer say, "Peter Rabbit was scared when Mr. McGreggor came running out of his tool shed."

(**note, as always, I apologize for my lack of technical terms that I am certain not only exist, but that I've heard before. The drawback of being your own teacher is that you learn terms that exist only in your own head. Those are the ones that stick. It works for me!)


Tags: writing is life
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