More than once I have mentioned rules. While I’m writing, I realize that I subconsciously think about these rules, because remembering them when I need to will eliminate me having to rewrite chapters and scenes. Today I want to discuss another firm rule that I have, and that rule is never write what I want.
There’s a difference in writing what you know versus what you want. The reason I don’t write what I want is because we are all individuals. What I like, someone else might hate. This is also true in writing. Readers should feel one of many emotions while reading. If I listed every emotion, it will be a long list. There are only several emotions that I try and evoke from readers: fear, fascination, happiness, anxiousness, love, hope and trust.
I want the reader to trust that I will give them entertainment while they’re reading.
I don’t want the reader to feel the same emotion on every page.
It doesn’t matter that I’m the author of the story I’m writing. I cannot simply write about subjects that I’m interested in, unless I’m not worried about book sales. In that case, I can write what I want. The subjects I want to tackle are subjects readers care about. Now let me contradict myself. Readers will read about any subject if the story is written compellingly. But what I’m getting at is this. I can't write blocks of my story just because those blocks means something to me. Instead I have write pages that a reader can appreciate . Let me give you an example.
So far, you already know that my story has many characters in it, because the story is about a dysfunctional family. What I can’t do and think my readers will love it is write about day-in and day-out things my characters do every day. I’m not going to walk them in fields or have them ride in cars or enter a bus station or a train just because that’s a part of their daily routine. What I must remember is, readers will walk alongside my character at all times, so if my character sits at a table, the reader sits at the table with them. If I’m only mentioning the table to let readers know where my character is at that moment, this isn’t what I’m talking about. It’s what my character does after they reach the table that’s important. Let’s say the family is sitting in each chair. What’s happening at the table? Will a reader care if food is being served and all of my characters are talking about everyday things? Not at all.
On each and every page, readers want to be entertained, so the strict rule is not to add anything that doesn’t stick to my plot. If I’m going to stick to the plot, I won’t even mention the table unless something vital will happen at this particular setting. Does there have to be something dramatic happening on every page? No. But on every page more of the plot should be revealed, which takes me to plot. What is a plot? A plot is a sequence of events that affect other events.
Aha! This basically means that one event affects another event that affects another event. If I use chapter one as an example, Jenna’s need to commit murder will cause a chain of events and these events will affect my characters, causing them to make decisions that will affect themselves and other members of the family. All books have an ending. It is the ending where the plot is resolved. Will Jenna get her wish?
From the moment her desire is revealed to the reader until the end when the plot is resolved, I can’t simply just fill the pages with what I want. I have to fill it with what the reader wants. What do I mean by what the reader wants? Emotion! They want love, and fear, and fascination, and hope, and to feel anxious about what’s going to happen next, and happiness, and trust that the story they’re reading will give them an overall good feeling when they reach the end. If I can’t give them that on every page, I have failed.
That’s what I worked on today, not failing readers once this book is released to market. This forces me to judge and weight each event that happened after Jenna revealed her desire. I must ask myself with each page I write if readers will care or put the book down. There are times when I want something to happen in the story. After I think it through, I can usually judge if this event will be added or removed from the story line. One of the reason I will remove it is because it takes my plot off course. I must stay true to my plot and while doing that give love, fear, happiness, anxiousness, hope, fascination and trust on every page.
A good book is a book a reader cannot put down. That should be the kind of story every writer aims to write each time they sit behind their computers.