Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How to make your readers care

I wish I had the answer for my title. It would be great if I had a magic solution for how to make readers care; I mean, they should care because somebody wrote it in the first place, right? Well. I don't always care when I pick up a book.

So, how do writers make me care? What engages me? What makes me wrinkle my nose and put a book down? Good questions to consider, when putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. When you put out a short story, or a novel, or a blog, it's your message in a bottle.

Imagine you're sending out your S.O.S. What makes people care? What makes them want to know what happens next? What makes them like your characters, or what makes the character interesting enough that people what to know what happens to them? I don't think characters should necessarily be "likeable". You might not want to be friends with certain people. They might not like the same things you like. Or people close to them might have a nasty habit of getting hurt. But damn, are they interesting, and you want to know what's going on in their lives.

For whatever reason, my writing classes in my various levels of schooling had some holes in them. Nobody talked about "filtering", nobody much mentioned "showing, not telling", nobody said anything about "negative negative form", or "passive voice".  Sometimes I fall into these things (As reflected by my very first post on the "Show Your Work" portion of the Absolute Write message board.

What I know about writing is mostly from reading. What I need to do, certainly, is practice my writing more, and that's been going pretty well this year, with a novel and two short stories completed, on the eve of yet another NaNoWriMo. I'm gearing up for a midnight start, as I've done in almost every year I've participated.

Are you ready?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Train of Thought

Occasionally, people react to my thoughts and habits in a way that surprises me, but also really makes me laugh. Not too long ago, I already posted one conversation along those lines. I've had a few others since, with varying people.

One day at work:

I turned to a coworker and said "Did you know that if you Google Maps search the Nevada Test Site, you can look at the bomb craters?" I think this is very cool, by the way, in a chilling sort of way. A testament to an era of nuclear testing that was probably not the best of plans.

My coworker looked at me, glanced at the screen, and said "What is wrong with you?"

The other day when friends were over:

Friend: You know, most people have light bathroom reading. You have On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War. And oh yeah, the book that the movie Shooter was based on.

Me: There are some National Geographics in there as well.

Other friend: Bathroom reading is proportionate to IQ.

Upon receipt of an order of Chinese food:

Me: You know, take out bags don't seem nearly as happy anymore. I mean, look at that smiley face. It's really just kind of meh.

My fiancé : The shit you come up with. Takeout bags not happy anymore.

Me: *laughing*

Another day at work:

Coworker, scanning books to see what people they go to: Jen, you might be taking your character things too far.

The book? Never Suck a Dead Man's Hand.