Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Writing For Readers

I met with a local book club this week to discuss Fireflies In December. I love talking with book clubs. It's not only a great chance to meet readers, but it's also a great way to find out how other people see my stories and characters. As a writer I spend hours immersed in a novel from my own perspective, but we all see things differently, and hearing the questions and observations of a group of women who love books can only help me improve as an author.

One of the most interesting comments I heard after we finished our discussion was from one woman who told me I talked about writing like an author, but I talked about the characters like a reader. I'd never heard that before, but it really is true. Even though I'm creating these people, I still see them in my mind like I'm watching them on a movie screen.

Not long ago someone asked me about a character in the book, and my answer began with, "Well, I think he was probably just..." Someone who heard the answer looked at me strangely and said, "You did write the book, you know." But for those hours that I sit with the characters -figuring out their motives, their words, their reactions - it almost seems like they're developing right before my eyes rather than being fleshed out by my fingers on the keyboard.

Which is probably a great thing for the writing process. After all, we write for the readers, don't we? Obviously we want to give them our stories with our own style and creativity, but ultimately the goal is to give the readers something that entertains, encourages, and stirs their emotions. If we're thinking like a reader, we're bound to connect with them.

So if you're working on your own novel - grinding away at plot lines, stumbling over some writer's block - fall back on those characters. Look at them like you would look at the characters in your favorite books. What would you want to see them do? How would you like their relationships to progress? Try seeing them through the eyes of a reader and let them walk you through their story.

You never know where they might lead you.

1 comment:

C.J. Darlington said...

Great insights, Jennifer. When I've gotten stuck in my writing I try to ask myself, "What would I want to happen AS A READER?" It does help to slip off that writerly cap and slip on the one of a reader. Thanks for reminding me to do this more often!