Saturday, September 1, 2012

10 Ways to Hit Your Reader In the Gut

One of the strongest bonds that link us to our favorite stories is the emotional tie, or books that sink a fist right into our guts. If ever you’ve found a book that you couldn’t let go of after the last page, chances are, the author successfully punched you in the spleen. If you’ve ever wondered how to do just that, here are some of my favorite methods:

  1. Make your reader root for your main character(s). Make your character stretch out their arm toward their goal, as far as they can to reach, until their fingertips barely brush it. Make your character want something so much that your reader wants it, too.
  2. When your character trips and stumbles and stops to question themselves, the readers will hold their breath.
  3.  Push your character to their very limit, and then a little further.
  4.  When your character hits the bottom, they should scrape themselves back together and get back up. Give readers a reason to believe in your character.
  5.  If your character is challenging your plot, your plot should challenge your character.
  6.  Leave a trail of intrigue, of questions, of “what if?” and “what next?”
  7.  If a character loses something (a battle, an important memento, part of themselves), they must eventually gain something in equal exchange, whether for good or bad.
  8.  Raise the stakes. Then raise them higher.
  9.  Don’t feel pressured to kill a character (especially simply to generate emotional appeal). A character death should serve the plot, not the shock factor. Like anything else in your story, only do it if it must be done and there’s no other way around it.
  10.  What’s the worst that can happen? Make it happen. Just make sure that the reader never loses hope.

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