FROM A READER TO WRITERS – “Reader, I married him…”

1 November 2022

Reader, I married him.  (Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre)

Surely the most explicit reference an author has made to the idea that there is a stage in a book’s life beyond publishing. Reading. She references the skills that must accompany the writing so that her original intentions might be truly successful. Thanks Charlotte, I salute you.

Readers will read anything and everything. But as readers of fiction, we remove ourselves, for a time, into a world other than our own. We bring our own imagination, opinions, personality, and critical faculties to the stories we choose. Otherwise, why would we bother? After all, we do buy your books.

We also bring our likes/dislikes. Oh yes, authors, be afraid…

For instance, why break off the action of a scene to describe details of the architecture, the furnishings, what the protagonist is thinking? Who cares? Stick with the action and get on with it. If any descriptive stuff is necessary put it somewhere else. Think of the structure and where/how to place descriptive stuff so that the continuity and progression of the story is not interrupted. Thanks.

The same with a conversation. What’s the point of posing a question at the end of some dialogue to be answered a page and a half later, after inserting any or all of the above? What’s the reader supposed to do – hang on with bated breath to take in the handsome man’s twinkly blue eyes when all we want is an answer to the question.

Structure, structure, structure…

Then, please give us something to do other than a bit of visual work on the letters and words. We like to use our minds to wonder where the story is going, how aspects of the story are connected. We don’t need endless repetitions of what motivates the characters; we can develop those ideas for ourselves. The best is when you allow us information yet unknown to the protagonists. Boy, do we feel superior!

I’m a sucker for the characters eating and drinking – as they enjoy a cup of tea/coffee. I put the kettle on in fellowship. Crime stories set in the 20s are particularly good for G&Ts. I can’t say that the characters guzzling a five-course dinner sends me to the stove, but there can be much vicarious enjoyment.

It’s all about allowing your readers to appreciate the simple sensory pleasures in life such as the warm sun on your back, clean sheets and fine weather. Of course, when appropriate, we can travel down those mean streets into dangerous places peopled by desperate villains and still enjoy the experience, while being thankful that it’s not happening to us. At the same time we can refer to matters in our own lives as well as implications within a wider context.

And then there’s humour. We like smart one-liners. We like wry comments. We like the insertion of a fun phrase into an explanation. Go on, make us laugh occasionally.

Just trust us. We enjoy reading, and will continue to do so, as long as you keep us entertained.

Happy writing,

Annie Ainsley

Photo by Mikołaj on Unsplash

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