Have you ever started to write a story or even a novel, and as you begin, you wonder what will make your story stand out? What is it that readers are looking for that will keep them turning the page?
Readers are looking for a) Entertainment, b) Challenge, and c) Surprise. But how can you give this to them as a writer?
Think about the writers you admire. What is it about their stories that keeps you coming back for more?
- What entertains you?
- What challenges you? Or maybe tests your own belief system?
- What surprises you? Could it be a character that you wouldn’t like in real life, but in a book, you find yourself cheering them on? Or is it the things that come out of your young children’s mouths? (My own children made me laugh and surprised me almost every day – well into their teens.)
So, what is it that a writer must do to keep their writers coming back?
- Be a “jester”
- Be a “priest”
- Be a “magician”
Which type of writer do you want to be? Maybe you can be all three – just make sure your story invites all three things – the entertainer, and the philosopher, and the person who reveals things in a magical way.
The “jester” entertains the reader. If your hero does something crazy, you get them laughing—it’s a great way to get the audience to like him. It doesn’t have to be slapstick or stand-up. It can be poetry, it can be soul stuff—but it must be loose, daring, unusual.
The “priest” challenges the reader. You write to give your characters viewpoint, to drag your audience into a new world. This is often called theme, but that’s not a strong enough gut word. It’s not subversive enough. Challenge is about shaking the tree, rattling the value systems out there. Make people think twice—about religion, art, politics, commerce, sex, money.
The “magician” surprises them. Blindside the audience. Give them that jack-in-the-box moment of truth—and deliver the punch at the same time it occurs to your hero. People hate to spot the clichés or see a plot twist coming. It doesn’t have to be the knife-behind-the-curtain moment, it can be as subtle as sleight-of-hand.
Challenge yourself to incorporate all three of these things into your story. Then you will have given your readers what they want.
But, remember: Always write in your own voice.