Sunday, March 7, 2010
By Rob Parnell
Good fiction is about forward thrust.
It's your job to propel the reader through your story without having them feel they are wading through your writing. In fact, your ultimate aim is somehow make the reader feel they're not actually reading at all.
It's what my friend Kenyon calls transparency—the idea that there is nothing between your reader's mind and your story - nothing as ugly as the text getting in the way!
Q.E.D. is a little acronym you might want to use to help you remember what you need to create compelling fiction on every page of your stories. Q.E.D. stands for:
Questions encourage people to look for answers. When readers read fiction they are asking themselves a series of questions about your characters and about your story.
Only when you satisfy your reader by feeding questions and later on providing answers will the reader feel entertained.
At the beginning of a new sheet of paper, ask yourself, What question am I going to place in the reader’s mind on this page?
You must have one - it's what makes the reader keep reading.
Without constantly stoking curiosity, a reader will simply get bored and not read on.
Empathy is crucial too. We looked at this. Not only is it important that you create empathy for your characters early on, you will also need to keep reinforcing it as you go.
Hopefully the actions that your characters make will take care of some of this. But you should be aware that if you feel your characters slipping away from you, it's probably because you're not keeping them human enough to be compelling.
A reader's total empathy with a character can be powerful. It is the hallmark of all good fiction writers. To create a hero that is credible and popular is the goal of most leading authors. Because once you've done that, you can take your readers almost anywhere with them.
When it's done well, the reader is totally in the your thrall and will trust you to take him further, on the adventure that is your novel, or series of novels.
Use it consciously. Readers rarely spot that you're doing it deliberately. They only know what they like and that is, for the time they are reading, they like being your lead character.
Lastly, D is for Drama again. It's important that you create drama, conflict and tension at least once on every page. It's the way of modern fiction.
People want to be entertained. But they've seen it all before. On
TV and at the movies. Try to think of new ways of being dramatic.
Don't get bogged down with description. You don't need long explanations or descriptions of things they are familiar with. It’s just not necessary.
Readers want to be thrown into the thick of things immediately.
There are a hundred ways to do that but most of them involve action, conflict and drama. If you find yourself wandering from the point and nothing in particular is happening, cut back to where the last piece of conflict was, delete all the verbiage and static writing and move off again—this time at high speed!
Imagine you're a soap opera writer where every scene counts, and every exchange is emotionally charged. Try not to sink into melodrama - but be aware that you're writing primarily to entertain.
At the beginning and ending of every new page ask yourself:
Q.E.D? Have I fulfilled the three requirements of compelling fiction?
If the answer is yes then you're probably on the way to becoming the next bestseller writer!
Guest blogger Rob Parnell is a prolific writer who’s published novels, short stories, and articles in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, and a teacher who’s conducted writing workshops, critique groups, and seminars.
Please visit Mr. Parnell’s Web site at: