Thursday, April 9, 2015

Interesting: Keeping Readers Hooked

(Posting this a few hours early just in case I'm next to submit to the stomach bug that is rapidly taking down my family, including relatives who have come to visit. If I disappear for a day or two,  I can probably be found at the nearest toilet or in my bed and will return asap. Anyway, please keep my family and I in your prayers!)

Keeping readers hooked is quite simple, really. There are two main rules that I follow:

  1. To be interesting, you must be interested.
  2. Write what you know.
I have those moments when I'm writing and writing and writing and I feel like I'm just trudging through trenches steeped in thick mud. I'm really not going anywhere, and I'm just writing word after word for the sake of writing word after word. My dialogue is flat and nothing is even happening. I stare at the screen with a sagging jaw and glazed over eyes and snap at any of my dear little siblings who come near me.

Well this, kids, is what I what I would call an UNINTERESTED WRITER. Would you agree? Or perhaps, to but it more directly, a bored writer.

No no no no no! Writers are literally the most interesting individuals on the planet! We have worlds in our heads, people! We create people, places, and things! We think outside the box! We're crazy, we're insane! We're extraordinary!

We certainly do not subscribe to the notion of boring. It's simply unacceptable.

So why suffer through a scene when you can just...change it? If the scene isn't interesting to you, its creator, it's not going to be interesting to anyone else.

"But Anne Marie," you whine. "What if it's a major scene in my novel, like the climax or something?"

Well then, goodness, you have some re-plotting to do.

Of course, we are going to not always be able to write the high action scenes. If that's all you want to do, then you should probably be writing a comic strip. But regular day-to-day life is incredibly interesting! There are so many possibilities that can flow into your story...if the scene you've planned on all along just isn't grabbing your attention, then don't be afraid to change it up. We writers excel on breaking the rules and going to the least expected place. I guess you could say that it's what's expected of us.

Secondly, WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. This was a writing rule that confused me as a kid. I wrote a lot of fantasy then, and I certainly didn't know kings and queens and have personal experience with falling in love with princes. I was like eight or something, for Pete's sake (why always Pete?)!! How much was I supposed to know, as an eight-year-old?! If I was going to follow that rule, it didn't give me a lot of options for writing material.

I woke up. Did school today. Talked to my mom. Ate food. Went to bed. Yay. The End.

I came to discover that it's not the plot at face value that we are supposed to know. As a writer, I am most successful when I am able to channel my feelings about life, my personal beliefs, and even my experiences into my story. This doesn't mean that I need to write a memoir, but that I underscore what main plot I have with themes that I believe in, that I find important. I can develop characters that struggle with the same virtues and vices I struggle with, things that I, a real person, can relate to. That way readers, other real people, might also relate.

Another thing I do while writing is put in versions of things that have happened to me. For example, really good friend breaks my heart? Oh, that is so going into my story. But perhaps it doesn't happen to said character the same way it happened to me...just something similar. More on that later this month--stay tuned!

If you're writing about things that you are passionate about, you're going to be interested. You're going to be hooked. You're going to want to keep writing.

When a writer wants to keep writing, a reader is going to want to keep reading. (It's like that whole If You Give A Mouse A Cookie thing. Sort of. Okay, maybe not really. It's late.)

How do you keep your readers hooked?


  1. Oh, yeah, if you're not interested in the stuff you're writing, others won't be either. It also helps to know the end of your story. Always keep that in mind. This alone helps guide you through the, um, the soggy middle of your manuscript. Happy Friday!

  2. So great, Annie. When I was little I was also confused about writing what you know. I took it so literally that I wrote an atrocious novel about a ballet dancer, because I really know ballet. But what I really wanted to be writing was fantasy. It took me a while to understand what "write what you know" really means. For me personally, it mostly applies to my characters, and not putting them in situations or making them feel things that I don't understand.

    Praying for you and your family, dear!

  3. It's as you've said, if I find it interesting, I know my readers will find it interesting too.

  4. I hope you don't get the stomach bug!

    "To be interesting, you must be interested." Good tip!

    I also like to throw in twists. They'll keep readers interested. ;)

    1. Thanks, Chrys! And good tip...I read (on Pinterest lol) that when you're stuck, you should throw the polar opposite at your character and see how they react. I thought that was interesting.

  5. As a converted pantster, I'm much better at creating early drafts that don't have all that boring filler stuff. Since I outline my plot (I subscribe to the 7-point story structure), even my first draft is pretty tight plot-wise.

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  7. I love that quote, Anne! "To be interesting, you must be interested"- so true. Thanks for your daily visits to my blog! :)

    1. Of course, having so much fun with your theme, as I'm sure you must be! Thanks for the comment!

  8. Oh, no! I hope you all stay/get well without too much suffering! Stomach bugs are awful...