With so many books and articles published every year, writers have had to up their game. It’s no longer enough to write something good; you have to seduce readers in a way that gets them intimately involved with your narrative. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or something else—seduction is the name of the game.
Think about your own experiences. There have probably been times in your life when you’ve started reading a book, only to yawn after a few pages and wonder why you ever picked it up in the first place. Long-winded introductions, poorly constructed characters, and long sentences can all take the charm out of a book.
The trick to getting people’s attention isn’t so much in what you write, or even how well you write, but whether or not you create a desire in them. There has to be a reason for them to continue reading—whether it’s to discover a secret formula for losing weight, what’s going to happen to a key character, or how to do something they’ve always wanted to do. Emotions drive reading decisions—everything else is secondary.
But creating desire and seducing readers isn’t easy. Often, it requires you to step out of your comfort zone and write in a way that sees the story from their perspective. Once you get into your audience’s shoes, though, you can start to work your magic. Here’s how:
Express Strong Emotions In Action
One of the problems with J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings is that he rarely took the chance to express his character’s emotions in action. It was always the job of the reader to infer why they had done what they had done (which is why the films were such masterpieces). But today’s top fiction authors recognise that merely providing a catalogue of events isn’t enough to draw in readers. There needs to be strong emotional content.
But what does that look like? It’s not about long monologues or in-depth descriptions of emotional experience. Readers don’t usually like this. It’s more about the nuance in the way characters talk to each other, and, importantly, what they do. This is actually a much more difficult thing to do than merely to report a character’s emotional experience. It takes time to think carefully about the way characters interact in their world in a way that is convincing and authentic.
Remember, although you may be writing a work of fiction, the emotions shouldn’t appear fanciful or unrealistic. Readers want to be able to connect to the people they read about, whether they are made up or not, and so they need to be believable.
The other thing to remember is that emotions in your story should follow a narrative trajectory. Feelings should build as your novel develops and, hopefully, reach a climax as the story resolves itself. Drip feeding readers emotional content helps to keep them invested in your work, safe in the knowledge that they’re going to be rewarded at some point.
Find Out What Scares Your Audience
Fear and desire are two fundamental driving forces in all human interactions, and they form the basis of many of the great works of fiction. These two emotions are so central to the human psyche that they can’t help but have universal appeal, as they have done throughout the centuries.
The characters in your story face these emotions all the time. Fear comes in the form of death, rejection and failure, while desire is related to love, peace and safety. It can sometimes be a little uncomfortable to explore these issues in your characters, but they’re things that everybody has to face and will strike a chord with your readership. Some writers can be downright afraid to put their creations in danger or reveal aspects of their personalities that they’d rather keep secret. But it’s these traits which can help transform a book from ho-hum into something gripping.
Think about the times when you’ve been most interested in a character. Almost always it will be times when they have been in danger or had to make a decision tempered by desire. Because your audience knows these feelings so well, they will empathize with your characters and wonder what they might do next. Characters help introduce readers to emotional danger, which can be very intoxicating.
Virtual Writing Tutor says that one of the biggest problems in people’s writing is the use of cliches. Although they may be a part of the vernacular, cliches almost always reduce immersion and make your writing less seductive.
The trick to engaging writing is to come up with your own way of saying things. Not only is it more interesting for the reader, but often it’s also more appropriate for the context. Cliches, unless used ironically, should be avoided.
Keep Your Readers Asking Questions
The screenplay for the TV series Lost was, in many ways, genius. The writers knew that to get people coming back season after season, they had to introduce random, unexplained elements which would be resolved later on. Many people watched the show just to find out how the writers were going to explain all the mysteries of the show. Their strategy worked, and Lost ran for a lot longer than initially intended.
Writers need to use this tactic too. They need to present something controversial, exciting or unexplained that requires an answer, such as a weird turn of phrase by a particular character, a strange event, or an inexplicable emotional reaction. Getting your reader to ask questions automatically generates interest in your book, forcing them to think about it differently than, say, if you gave them all the answers up front.
Get Right Into The Action
While setting the scene has its place, readers aren’t usually that interested in all the minutiae of your fictitious world; they want action. Smart writers create the scene as the action unfolds, rather than describing it separately, giving readers both something rich and compelling. Launching right into the action helps set the pace and provides interest immediately, making it easier to captivate than long, meandering descriptions.