It took me a while to arrive at what topic to write about. Marta had left the field pretty wide open, “amything about writing, marketing, publishing, or creativity would be great” she told me. One of the really great things about being around bloggers who review books, or those who write, blog, and review, is the spectrum of perspective you can get from seeing different approaches. But you get to read that all the time.
So I struggled a bit with what to present. Then it slapped me upside the head as I was listening to my iPod . . .
Unforgettable — That’s what you are . . .
It can be intensely challenging to gently draw your reader into caring for a character or seeing, immersing themselves into a scene you try to set through description. Consider the very manner in which the human brain works when reading text—it sees letters as individual pictures, and in many cases not even all the letters in a given word are visually seen, our brains learn what a given word likely is just by the arrangement of characters. Seeing words and letters as pictures isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there is a huge drawback: as a reader there are an overwhelming number of them. The brain has a hard time retaining text; actual pictures or images are an entirely different matter. The brain can recall detail in a photo for a stunning length of time after the image is first seen. Not so with text.
So what’s my point?
You must not simply present your story or characters. You must evoke some internal reaction from the reader, provide something they can bite into.
Unforgettable — Though near or far . . .
I have been told (more than once) that I can be verbose. Could I tighten things up—make them punchier for the sake of brevity? Undoubtedly. And in some instances I truly need to focus on that; but for others it would mean sacrificing the very thing that brings subtle accent to my style: my voice. Somewhere, in that murky, foggy acreage between the two is where I strive to be.
Like a song of love that clings to me
How the thought of you does things to me. . .
Clinging. In that one word you get a feel for some form of desperation, be it warm or chilling. Associate it with the proper modifier—like ‘love’—and you elicit a powerful emotion from the reader. Who doesn’t want to experience, or even recall fondly, clinging, welcome love? By choosing the best words you can achieve the best effect.
For instance, if a character is beaten, worn down by her circumstances, don’t simply say “she looked sad and exhausted.” Find a way to try and provoke your reader. Sit back and think about what another character might see if witnessing such melancholy: “His finger tucked under her chin, its tip warm with sympathy. As he raised it he could see the sad surrender in her eyes.”
I’ll grant you that it’s verbose. The more important question: Did it draw an image for you, or elicit the slightest twinge of emotion? Did it cling?
Never before has someone been more
Unforgettable — in every way
And forever more, that’s how you’ll stay. . .
If you can get out of your soul, and under your readers’ skin, your characters will stick with them . . . because the reader becomes, as we all have among the words and pages of stories that touch us, part of the story themselves.
Selling lots of books is a goal any hopeful author has, but for me the more genuine aspiration, the more profound and noble achievement, is to perhaps attain an effectual status with a reader of my words—to reach the silent warmth of unforgettable.
All My Best,
J.W. Nicklaus is the author of The Light, the Dark, and Ember Between , a collection of short stories. Want to know more . . . of course you do! Visit his website avomnia.com to see what others have said about his published debut, or visit his blog.