At the When Words Collide readers and writers event in Calgary, Jodie Renner delivered an engaging presentation on how writers can hook readers into their stories. by letting them speak for themselves. In other words, an author has to resist the urge to insert themselves of their Point of View (POV) into the story.
Jodie, a freelance fiction editor and award-winning author is Canadian (yeah!). She’s penned a handful of very useful, highly-rated reference books.
Click here for her Amazon page. Jodie had a special $.99 deal on at the beginning of the year and I bought four of her books in Kindle format – they are easy to read and full of good advice. Even without the deal, the books are reasonably priced and, in my opinion, give full value for the investment. She also has a blog.
Here’s what Jodie had to say at When Words Collide.
Readers pick up your novel to escape the mundane – they want an intriguing lead character. For maximum escapism, they almost become the character – they want to feel hear and see what the character does. Vicarious enjoyment.
Create a strong authentic voice with a complex, fascinating main character with a complex goal, external and internal conflicts. What are her fears, hopes, strengths, regrets, motivations – once you know this, the rest will evolve. Have them speak naturally – short sentence, different thoughts that represent their gender, age, upbringing and personality.
Make sure descriptions emerge from the POV of your protagonist – this reveals the personality of the observing character – you want descriptions to do double and triple duty. You can do this by working in their personality and agenda, how they are feeling (confident, timid, angry, afraid – you enhance character development when your visuals are not neutral.
CHARACTER DRIVES THE STORY
As an author, you have to stay out of the story. Stay in the character’s voice even when doing narration. That character’s observations keep the pace moving constantly.
Show the environment only as the character sees it – use only those details. Filter the scene through her intentions, feelings, perceptions and viewpoint. Use her words, not the authors, when describing a scene.
Keep the language consistent and believable with the character. Don’t stop the story with descriptions. In the throes of action, a character doesn’t have the time to assess an environment, except when it is relevant to the story or mood (If she is afraid, she’ll notice exits, barriers, potential danger, etc.
Readers today know what a bar looks like or a shopping mall – unless the location is unusual, don’t bother describing it. If the reader doesn’t know, they’ll Google it.
Readers want to know what might affect a character’s life – they are very tall, fat, have a facial deformity, etc.
Here’s a hot tip: GET TO KNOW YOUR CHARACTER BY WRITING A JOURNAL IN THEIR VOICE.
Play with writing backstory for them. You won’t necessarily use it in your finished draft, but doing so will take you deeper into the hearts and minds of your characters.