The whole purpose of any piece of writing is to grab your reader’s attention and maintain that attention all through the story. It sounds easy, but it’s not always easy to accomplish, and that’s because the writer has to somehow make the reader want to keep reading.
Maintaining interest for a reader is a fluid, continual process. In order to captivate, a writer must continually create to avoid the story and the characters from becoming stale, boring and lacklustre.
First and foremost, make sure the story starts at its most necessary point in order to grab their attention from the very start. Once you have done that, then you can build around it and maintain that momentum and attention. There are several ways to create, and therefore, captivate:
· Create conflict
· Create obstacles
· Create tension
· Create emotion
· Create action
The golden rule of any fiction writing is to create conflict with and around your characters. Think of conflict as the cogs that drive your entire story. Without conflict, there isn’t much of a story and if there isn’t much of a story then it doesn’t really move forward.
Real life is full of conflict. Your character’s experiences should be no different.
The other golden rule of fiction writing is to always have obstacles in your character’s path. These obstacles act as tension buffers – the need to overcome an obstacle heightens the tension and atmosphere and keeps your reader gripped as to what might happen, or how the character might achieve this.
Again, real life is full of constant, ordinary obstacles, for instance:-
1. You need to buy a house, but don’t have much money...
2. You won a holiday abroad, but you’re scared of flying...
3. Your wife is about to give birth, but you’re stuck in the worst traffic jam...
Ordinary obstacles require extraordinary ways of getting over them. And that’s what keeps a reader gripped.
Place plenty of barriers in your character’s way – make their lives hard, it will be worth it, because by doing so, you create tension just by having your characters trying to overcome those obstacles in order to reach their goal.
Create tension whenever possible. Similar to conflict, this is a necessary ingredient of fiction writing. There could be tension between characters, or it could be an inner tension within your main character. There should always be tension in one form or another within the story because they are prevalent in real life, and therefore your fictional world should be no different.
Create emotion with your characters and their situation. If you don’t, then how will your reader empathise with them? How will they warm to them or care about them? And, conversely, how will they hate and dislike your villainous characters with passion?
Emotions allow the reader to identify and connect with your characters – if a writer can emotionally reach out and touch the reader in some way, then they have done their job.
Create action – this always grips the reader. Whatever the scene, balanced narrative should always have a splash of action to keep the reader’s juices flowing. This works especially well if the action places the characters in mortal danger – it makes it all the more gripping.
Creating and captivating a reader is not an easy task – it’s a fine balance of maintaining and sustaining atmosphere and tension, the various conflicts, barriers, heightened emotions and scintillating action, all to drive the story forward to its conclusion and captivate your reader.
Next week: Creating effective character goals