Focusing on Readers by Andy Holloman

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Andy Holloman

In the busy world that all of us writers/readers operate in, keeping one’s focus on THE ALMIGHTY READER is a struggle.  This is why I decided to focus this post on some things that I keep at the top of my priority list (mostly) when constructing a story for my readers.  For any writer, putting on the “reader” hat helps us focus.   (And boy do I need to remember that myself!)  So here goes:

1. Build a story that makes people want to turn the page

In the Amazon/Nook/Ibooks world of free or reduced-rate books, readers are much more likely to discard something that doesn’t make them want to turn the page.  Start with a slow moving passage – meh.  Build in a complex twist that confuses readers, bye-bye.

Instead, keep your reader wanting to move ahead with a concentrated focus on interesting plot points and pacing that drops in just enough clues/suspense/mystery/romance such that a reader is thinking “hmm, I wonder what is going to happen” or “OMG, I can’t believe what that person just did!”

2.  Make your characters interesting

Easier said than done, huh?  Put yourself in the reader’s shoes.  Do your characters have qualities that readers can relate to?  Do your characters have interesting quirks that make your readers smile? Hmmm, they don’t? Then ask yourself why any reader would want to invest 10 or more hours getting to know them.

If you went to a party and mingled with the folks there and everyone bored you to tears or seemed to be a copy of folks you’d met before, then you’d leave.  Keep your readers at the party with interesting partygoers that liven the place up.

A bestselling writer told me once that he likes his characters to be “scuffed up,” by which he means they need strengths and weaknesses and quirks.  Traits that make you like them, and traits that create some empathy for them.  Put some scuff marks on your characters.  Give someone a physical or mental handicap.  Make a supporting character gay, or a former felon, or divorced 6 times.  Give someone an occupation that is unusual – garbage man, bill collector, or animal rights activist.

3.  Focus hard on the first few pages

I struggle with this one.  But go back to item #1 for a moment. Remember we live in a world where books are becoming less expensive and MUCH easier to dispose cvrof.  Lose your readers in the first ten pages and you’ve lost them for good.  Who cares if your story begins to really “rock” mid-way through if you can’t keep the readers interest in the beginning?

Writing mystery/thriller novels?  Then you better think about “killing” someone right away.  Romance?  Then be sure you entice your readers with an interesting love interest or a break up or just something MORE exciting than a few lingering glances.  Horror?  Then make sure you set the mood and drop in some hints regarding the impending doom that your characters are going to face.

I call it the “Love at First Sight” component to your story.  If you can’t entice your reader with your “looks”  at the beginning and get them interesting in “dating” you, then they are going to move on.  And just to continue this barely worthy analogy, remember that for readers, there are ALOT of other “fish in the sea”.

Are any of the above suggestions brand new to the writing world? Heck no.  But for me, writing this post is just another reminder of how important it is for me to remain focused on the reader.  Remember, lose your reader, and you’ve lost the battle.  Make you reader happy, then you will have gained two or three new readers.  And isn’t that why we spend so much time hunched over the keyboard?

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Andy Holloman grew up in Greenville, NC and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Economics.  All through high school and college, he was notorious for scribbling out stories and ideas for novels, which he always kept in a top secret shoe box.

After college, Andy fell into the travel industry by accident and was able to grow a travel business into an Inc. 500 company.  The agency grew through the use of the Internet and by acquiring three other companies.  Late in the 1990’s, he became familiar with the story of one of the company’s clients who was murdered in Durham, NC and was a suspected drug smuggler.  This story and the subsequent downfall of the travel agency industry (and Andy’s company)  after 9/11,  planted a seed in his head that grew into his first published novel, Shades of Gray.

Today, Andy lives in the Raleigh, NC area.  He is the father of three, and has been happily married for 20 years.  He enjoys (mostly) attending his kids’ sporting and school events, supporting the local real estate industry, and watching fine films with his wonderful wife.

 

Tomorrow we feature Douglas Dorow, bestselling author of the thriller, The Ninth District, whose surprising piece is entitled, “Surprise Me!” Find out why Douglas’s son doesn’t enjoy watching movies with his dad.

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About fbrooke

Frederick Lee Brooke is the author of the widely-acclaimed Annie Ogden mystery series, which includes Doing Max Vinyl, Zombie Candy, and Collateral Damage. The first book in Fred's entirely new dystopian series for YA and adult readers alike is Saving Raine (The Drone Wars: Book 1)A consummate jetsetter, he was born and raised in Chicago (where both Doing Max Vinyl and Zombie Candy are set) and has lived in Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, France, and Germany; he has called Switzerland his home for the past two decades, and travels widely throughout Europe (at latest count, he has visited Italy over 50 times!). Brooke’s love of the written and spoken word is vast—not only has he taught English in various European schools, he also knows French, German, and Italian, and dabbles in Turkish in his spare time. This love of language led him to quit his day job two years ago and focus on his original dream: writing fiction. When not writing books, his three kids (and their homework) keep him busy. He is currently working on a new series of thrillers and, once that’s done, he might take some time to visit one of those Swiss chocolate factories (but only for the free samples). He can often be found chopping vegetables in the kitchen, and makes a mean lasagna.

You can find him online at www.FrederickLeeBrooke.com. Sign up for his newsletter and read all about his travels, recipes, and upcoming works!

Comments

  1. Quirky, eh? Maybe a character could always recite lyrics~

    *hugs*

  2. Douglas Dorow says

    Thanks Andy, nice post. Found myself reading it with your North Carolina accent playing in my head 🙂

  3. Excellent advice, Andy!
    Aloha