Write Better Now Roundup
Have you ever been at a party and someone tells a story and you just don’t care?
Have you ever been that person telling the story and realized mid-story that everyone’s eyes have dulled over?
You feel trapped. You want the story to be over (especially if you’re the one telling it). You know something has gone wrong because you can feel it. The communication of failure is instant.
The problem with writing a novel is that you can’t see when that happens: when (Shakespeare help us all) the reader stops being hooked by the story, no longer cares about what happens.
That’s terrifying, right?
There are two major elements that keep a reader turning that page or scrolling down:
- Curiosity—the need to know what happens next
- Care—the connection and concern and emotion for the characters.
In Characters & Viewpoint, Orson Scott Card writes, “The intensity of the characters’ feeling, as long as it remains believable and bearable, will greatly intensify the reader’s feelings—whatever they are.”
So, be intense if you want your readers to care about what’s happening, but don’t be so intense that they can’t handle it.
To do that you want to give your character:
- A goal that the reader knows—something that matters to the character
- Choices that might hinder the character getting to that goal or help them
- Sacrifices that happen so that the reader sees that the character has an internal struggle getting to that goal.
When it comes to curiosity, that’s the hook that keeps us moving forward and wondering what will happen to the character in the story. The choices, the emotions that arrive with those choices, are what makes the reader curious about what will happen.
A MasterClass post says,
“Most techniques to hook a reader have one thing in common: They force the reader to ask questions. A good hook—whether it uses action, emotion, a strong statement, or another technique—will have your reader guessing about your characters’ motivations, backstories, and more. Maybe in high school, you learned to start an essay with a rhetorical question. Try that same technique now, but leave the actual question out of the finished piece. Instead, set up a scene that leads your reader to come up with the question on their own.”
Think of a scenario for your story (or just a scenario if you don’t have a story):
- Zombie hamsters are coming down the street.
- The tea mug your uncle gave you has a secret message on the bottom.
- Your mom just told you she’s part oak tree.
Now, think of a question and write the scenario and scene toward that question.
PLACE TO SUBMIT
Call for Submissions: Jewish Fiction.net
Jewish Fiction .net, a prestigious literary journal, invites submissions for its December 2023 issue. We are the only English-language journal devoted exclusively to publishing Jewish fiction, and we showcase the finest contemporary Jewish-themed writing (either written in, or translated into, English) from around the world. In our first 12 years we have published over 500 stories or novel excerpts, originally written in twenty languages and on five continents, and we have readers in 140 countries. We’ve published such eminent authors as Elie Wiesel, Savyon Liebrecht, and Aharon Appelfeld, alongside many excellent, lesser-known writers. For submission details, please visit our Submissions page at www.jewishfiction.net/index.php/contactus/submission/
Blink-Ink #53: Secrets
Deadline: July 15, 2023
State secrets, family secrets, trade secrets, secret sins and secret loves, entrusted secrets, cosmic secrets, childhood secrets, dark secrets taken to the grave—any sort of secret at all. Can’t keep a secret? Closely guarded treasure, or a bargaining chip. We are more interested in tales of mystery than everyday gossip. Send us your best unpublished stories of approximately 50 words about a Secret, or Secrets. Submissions are open June 1, 2023 through July 15, 2023. No attachments, poetry, bios, or AI generated content please. Send submissions in the body of an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
STORIES FROM LAST WEEK
SIX QUICK HINTS ABOUT HOW TO KEEP YOUR READERS READING
So, this post, and way more writing tips are over on, Write Better Now! is a mostly self-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.