What Readers Have In Common, by Christine Nolfi

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TheDreamYouMakeShadedTo my mind, the lot of humanity is separated into distinct camps. In the first, you’ll find most people, the busy bees and the slackers, the viciously ambitious and the sadly confused. Your employer resides in this camp with her irritating habit of texting her lover while you try to conduct a conversation. So does the gap-toothed cashier at the drugstore, the neighbor with his fixation on golf and the acquaintance who drinks too much. The ranks are filled out with politicians, pastry chefs, gang members, and churchgoers. You’ll also find doctors, college students, dog lovers and pencil pushers.

In the other, much smaller camp sit the readers of fiction, those obsessive souls with nightstands crammed with books. They read on the bus, while dining, on the beach and in the john. They arrive late for parties because “just one more chapter” beckoned.

Why, you may ask, does anyone pick up the habit?

Sure, reading is pleasurable—but not merely for the reasons you assume. Immerse yourself in a story and you shuck off responsibility, choose your companions, avoid everyday tasks and explore an inner world most people never visit. A favorite novel takes the reader on a journey into distant lands and unusual lives. The experience is more compelling than a day-to-day life with its dull predictability and frustrating demands. The process allows the analysis of hundreds of motives and the passage through experiences we’d never otherwise know.

A novel promises two stories—a surface plot, and a deeper exposition of what really happened. A character’s motives are revealed in chapter twelve, or a plot twist arrives to rip away the veil and display the true happenings in a heartfelt or hideous way. Avid readers learn to hunt for meaning, and they carry this lesson into the other world, the one of 9-to-5 tedium. They live richly because they enjoy many lives and embark on adventures in the most unlikely places—on lunch breaks and while sitting on the sidelines of a child’s soccer practice, in the elevator and late at night curled up in bed.

The rest of the world exists in a surface life. Not you. Open a book, and dive deep.

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ChristNolfi Author Photo1ine Nolfi’s contemporary novels provide readers with heartwarming and inspiring fiction. Her debut Treasure Me is a 2012 Next Generation Indie Awards finalist. Midwest Book Review lists Treasure Me, Second Chance Grill and The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge as “highly recommended.” Look for her next release, The Dream You Make.

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Surprise Me! by Douglas Dorow

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doug dorow profile photoMy son doesn’t like watching mystery/suspense/thriller movies or TV shows with me because I’m always looking for the clues or props that the story teller is weaving into the story and trying to figure out how they’ll be used later.

OK, maybe it isn’t just that I’m looking for clues that my son doesn’t like, it’s my sharing of them during the show when I see them that really makes him mad.

For example, we were watching one of the newer Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr.

In one scene, Sherlock grabs an underwater breathing device off the desk of a person they’re visiting. Hmm, I wondered, why did he grab that? Later in the movie, Sherlock appears to sacrifice himself by falling off a ledge with his nemisis into water far below. I whispered to my son, “the breathing device”. Those are the moments he doesn’t like. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Sometimes I wait until after the movie to see if he caught the clues I did, but sometimes I have to share them when I see them)

What movies do we remember? Those that thrill us, make us think, surprise us. One that did that for me was THE GAME.

The story unfolded in front of us and we could follow along, but each step along the way was a surprise, all the way to the end.

As a long time consumer of thrillers, I still come back for more, but I want to be surprised. I want to be surprised and it has to make sense and fit with the story that’s being told. If the story isn’t interesting I’ll quit reading and pick up another. But, if I find that thrilling story, I’ll read late into the night and want to read another by the author. (You know what I’m talking about)

As a creator of thrilling fiction I keep trying to learn and one lesson I heard recently was, don’t go with the first thing that pops into your head, that’s what the reader9-English - high res will probably be thinking or expecting. They’ll find your story uninteresting and boring. And don’t go with the second or third, instead go with the fourth. The fourth idea you think of will still fit with the story, but it will be unexpected both by you and the reader and that will make your writing more interesting and keep the reader engaged.

If I can surprise myself as I’m writing the story, I can surprise the reader and we’ll both enjoy the thrill. My goal in my writing is to have fun, and to thrill and surprise myself. If I can surprise me, I know I can surprise you.

Keep reading and enjoy the thrill. What thriller writers surprise you?

 

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Douglas Dorow is a thriller writer from Minneapolis Minnesota, the home of many thriller/suspense writers. Is it something in the water or the long, cold winters?
His first thriller is The Ninth District.

He is working on the second in the series featuring FBI Agent, Jack Miller. He has also started another action/adventure series.

Want to know how a good book can be like cheeseburgers? Stop in this Thursday, January 31 and check out Shannon Mayer‘s “Cheeseburgers and Literary Fiction.” Shannon is the bestselling author of ten books including Dark Isle and Dark Fae.

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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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