Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Drawing in the reader
Anyway, being in-between projects like this, I was really struck when a beta reader of Project Demo and a Bristol friend, who has been reading Project Fun, both pointed out the same thing. Apparently I'm too subtle.
I know, who would have thought that?!
But even though my readers phrased it in different ways, they were basically telling me the same thing: my beginnings are slow. I think I've buried these little clues in the writing, but even carefully reading, they barely noticed. I need to grab my reader, pull them along, let them know that something big and scary is coming. As my Bristol reader said, "You need to go totally over the top. I mean, not really over the top, but for you it will feel like over the top."
I love that I have writing friends who know me well enough that they can give me feedback like that. Also, as I've been mulling their advice over in my mind, I've remembered I used to give my 7th graders similar advice about writing essays: "Pretend your reader is stupid."
Then they'd always remind me that *I* was their reader. Touché. But the advice stands. Sometimes what is obvious to a writer (a clue, a transition, how a quote proves an essay's point) isn't obvious to a reader.
Of course a writer can go overboard with this advice. And children's writers, especially, are always being reminded not to condescend to their readers. But some writers (like me!) need to be reminded that their readers don't have instant access to everything in the writer's head.
Do you consciously think about drawing readers in with your beginnings? How do you do it? Do you ever have to force yourself to go totally over the top?
*The image is from a Showcase Cinemas ad that I see every time I go to the movies. But when I think about drawing people in, I see this guy, waving us forward, gesturing us closer. The whole ad is here (and totally dorky, but maybe the visual will help you, too?).