Friday, September 25, 2015

Loosing your readers in a good way

Last night I spoke with one of my friends about my sense of direction, or rather my lack thereof. This way in no way connected to the fact that I had pulled out of an event and began driving in the wrong direction. Nor did it have to do with the fact that I didn't notice I was going the wrong way for an embarrassing amount of time. I was caught up in the moment and it's even worse when I'm a passenger.

When someone else is driving I turn into a golden retriever. I have no sense of how long the ride should take and sometimes loose sight of which direction we should be going.

It's as if I am saying"Are we going somewhere? I get to go play? You are so amazing. Thank you." I'm there for the ride and happy to get out of the house. If I'm lucky I might even get a treat.*

A really good story puts me in this mindset. The world around me disappears and I'm there for the journey.

For some odd reason this picture strikes me as funny. Probably because A: I totally don't remember taking it, B: When I first saw the thumbnail of this picture I thought it looked like I was about to run over a person....and was documenting the evidence & C: Because I'm have an odd sense of humor, namely because I am odd

I'm not focusing on the external aspects of voice, grammar and style. I appreciate them, but on an instinctual level. They don't pull me out of the story to prove how glorious their prose. If the prose is glorious it melts into me with a seamless enjoyment.

Have you ever read a book where it felt like the author was saying, "Look how clever I am. My vocabulary is bigger than your vocabulary.  Did you see how I wove the complex theme into the story? Did you see it? What about all of the foreshadowing and symbolism? You never would have been able to create a masterpiece like this."**

This is different from having a moment of introspection and thinking back on a particularly acute or fluid way of storytelling. I'm talking about when you're pulled out of the story or never get sucked into it. It's almost as if the writer is hovering over your shoulder asking if you've made it to a certain page or paragraph.

I know that I often find myself getting so wrapped up in a certain article about writing, or the style of another author. It effects me and I begin to try to work my new found knowledge into my prose. What happens is that I end up creating a disjointed collage which hinders the storytelling. It also comes off as obnoxious rather than engaging.

But enough about me... 

Have you ever written something which felt awkward because it was trying too hard to be clever? I challenge you to look over your current project and get rid of every third word....only joking. That's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about.

The actual assignment is to look over your current project or projects and see if it feels fluid. Does the story and style ring true to you? Don't worry about how it would sound to your Uncle Ted who adores you***, but really wishes you'd finally take over the family business and sell wickets like a respectable person.****
When I think of journey's I think about hiking in the mountains. 

While not all those who wander are lost, sometimes the best thing you can do for your readers is to give them a place where they can get lost. You don't even have to worry about providing a treat.

The footnotes

*To my credit, I don't get distracted by squirrels. However, I will break up a conversation to shout out something like, "Hey look at that dog!"...So maybe I'm not that far from yelling out "Squirrel."

**I probably went a little over the top in this example. Even though it's a fabricated example I still want to punch the fictional writer in the nose.

***Don't pretend you don't have an Uncle Ted. You know the guy Im talking about. The one with the hair.

****Props to you if you know what the obscure wicket reference is from. Hint, it has nothing to do with your Uncle Ted

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