And a deeper question for writers…
by Margaret Welwood
It always takes me a while to recover from reading a Francine Rivers book because the characters continue to interact—scenarios from the book, and new ones as the heroes find themselves in further predicaments and need my help.
I googled the first question in my title and came up with numerous articles, all with explanations that made sense. Here are a few:
As the movie director, you watch the story play out before your eyes in the way that you can best relate to it. The characters may resemble, physically and psychologically, people you know, and may even help you to understand others better.
The movie is three hours long, with no chance to replay your favorite parts (if you’re in a movie theatre), but you can savour the book at your own pace.
You can HOLD the book. I like to keep glancing back at the cover picture, or the picture of the author I’m appreciating more and more.
Straightforward enough. But that took me to a deeper question—how can we keep our stories playing in our readers’ minds?
We’ve all started to read a book, then put it down because we’ve lost interest. And we’ve stayed up too late reading other books.
Even with the caveat that what’s fascinating to me (Biblical fiction, Christian suspense) may be boring to you (What? You like sports stories?), we acknowledge that skilled writers in every genre know how to keep interest high.
So how do we—like Rivers and other skilled authors—learn to keep our readers’ interest? The answers seem almost too simple, but they work very well.
- Read successful authors in your genre. Read their work silently and out loud. Immerse yourself in it. Unknown to them, Stan, Jan, and Mike Berenstain were my mentors when I began to write picture books for children. They also mentored the artist for my first two books.
- Study the craft via free or paid resources and courses.
- Pay close attention to what the beta readers of your stories tell you. Their opinions may not be based on a university degree in literature, but their opinions will be based on what your readers like.
- Consider joining a community of writers. When I was writing magazine articles, our library was hosting a weekly meeting for writers that provided useful feedback. The online Authors Community offers a free Starter membership that will give you friendly access to other writers as well as editors, illustrators, and other professionals.
It’s a big world out there, with millions of potential readers. Will our stories be read?
Margaret Welwood loved teaching English as a Second Language, writing magazine articles, and editing a business magazine and adult non-fiction books (one an Amazon #1 best seller, the other a Writer’s Digest award winner). However, with the arrival of grandchildren and their welcome request—“Grandma, can you tell me a story?”—she began writing and editing picture books for children. This is now her favorite genre.