Make Your Readers Worry, And They Will Be Loyal

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Readers like to worry about characters in crisis. They want to tremble about what’s around the next corner (whether it’s emotional or physical). If a reader knows what’s coming, and then it does in fact come, the worry factor is blown. Your novel no longer conveys a fictive dream but a dull ride down familiar streets.

The fix is simple: Put something unexpected in every scene. Doing this one thing keeps the reader on edge.

So how do you come up with the unexpected? Try making lists. Pause and ask yourself what might happen next, and list the possibilities, centering on three primary areas: description, action and dialogue. For each one, don’t choose the first thing that comes to mind (which usually amounts to cliches). Force yourself to list at least five alternatives.

Description: Dump generic details for ones unique to the character’s perceptions. How might he see a room where someone died? What’s one surprising thing about the wallpaper? The bed? The closet?

Action: Close your eyes and watch your scene unfold. Let the characters improvise. What are some outlandish things that could result? If something looks interesting, find a way to justify it.

Dialogue: Don’t always use “on-the-nose” exchanges. How might characters say things that put other characters (and thus, readers) off balance? Consider Clarice Starling’s first conversation with Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice begins:

“I think you’ve been destructive. For me it’s the same thing.”

“Evil’s just destructive? Then storms are evil, if it’s just that simple. And we have fire, and then there’s hail. Underwriters lump it all under ‘Acts of God.’”


“I collect church collapses, recreationally. Did you see the recent one in Sicily?”

You can make these lists in your planning stages, just before writing a scene, and/or when you revise. Either way, the unexpected elements that result will perceptibly elevate the quality of your story.”

For more tips on writing from , click here.

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Notes and Words Dance

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Two tips of ten for writing music:

“Tune In To Your Emotions

When writing songs, it’s important to make sure that the lyrics have a powerful emotional impact. One of the best ways to make sure a song has an emotional impact is by writing lyrics with passion. It’s essential to be passionate about something in life. Without passion, everyday life can become dull and uninteresting. This insipid and bland lifestyle can seep into one’s lyrics. When you sell music online, don’t send people to sleep

Do Crazy Stuff

Few people ever hear a truly great song that was written by an accountant or a dentist. While these are good career choices, many musicians lead colorful lives that serve as an inspiration for their lyrics.”

To see more tips from Ditto Music, click here.

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Emotions…even in the REAL

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“You have completed the draft of an article, but it seems flat and lifeless, even to you. It needs to have the spark that ignites that all important emotional connection to your readers but you are at a loss as to how to spruce it up. Breathing life into a nonfiction article is tough, especially if it doesn’t include a character or an emotional storyline….

…Why would you even want to add emotion to a nonfiction article? Adding emotion to your writing, any type of writing, fuels the reader’s attention, helps them connect with the action. It gives the reader an experience. Experience is why people go to the movies or watch TV. More importantly, it keeps them reading.”

To learn the steps on how to emotionally charge your writing, with tips from Catherine Franz, click HERE.

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Make Your Readers Cry

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Shattering the frozen sea

Frank Kafka once said, ”A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.”

Be honest. You dream about your writing having that affect on someone, don’t you? Because words have had that affect on you.

The frozen sea inside of you has been shattered by stories, truths, ideas, and turns of phrase so astounding that you had no words to respond or even tell someone what it meant to you. Isn’t that why you want to write?

So, how do you write words that will move people, and potentially even play a part in breaking the frozen sea inside of them? It’s actually quite simple:

You write what moves you.

Except that part is not always easy. Because in order to write what moves you, you will have to visit your pain. Your fear. Your weaknesses. Your nightmares and demons. The skeletons in your closet and the horrific possibility of self-disclosure, even if veiled in stories and themes.

Because, as you well know, that’s where the frozen sea inside of you is. If you are ever going to crack the ice of another person’s soul, you have to be brave enough to go first. To be a witness. A testimony. An example.

You have to go first

If you love your reader, you will go first. You have to lead them on this journey. To show them how and why it’s important.

There is enough fluffy, meaningless drivel on paper to fill the Marianas Trench. So don’t add to it. Write something that matters. And write it with conviction:

    • Write about the truths and ideas that are so astonishing you can hardly believe them.
    • Write the story that keeps you awake, tossing and turning at night because it echoes the ache in your soul.
    • Write that memoir, and include the parts that you are terrified of putting on paper, because it will remind you that they are real. (Some may no doubt need the support of a friend, therapist, or pastor for this.)

Whatever it is, write about those things that punch you in the throat and stir your insides.

Because if it moves you — if it raises a lump in your throat as you type, it will move someone else.

It might just give them the hope that you’ve been given by other writers, with their words and stories that have inspired and reminded you that you are not alone. Aren’t you glad they went first?

As I was writing my first novel, there were many times where tissues had to guard my keyboard from falling tears. The story I was writing moved me and, thankfully, it has gone on to move others.

Such is the inexplicable magic of words, and I am in awe of the weight they can carry.

This is not just for the reader

Oh, and one more thing: Don’t believe that going first is only a gift to your reader.

It is first a gift for you — and a very meaningful one at that.

We all need to go to our frozen sea, because seas were not meant to be frozen. They are meant to thrash about with life.

So, what are you waiting for? Go find your ax. And get to work.

For more great insights from Jef Goins, Click HERE.

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