The Craft of Shrinking the Story

It sounds easy, this notion of merging character and story.  It is not.  So many obstacles intervene.  The reader may not like your character because he doesn’t like the story.  He may like war novels.  He may like domestic fiction and romance.  He may not.  It could be he doesn’t like your character(s) for dozens of reasons.  Or the chapter headings, or long paragraphs or descriptions or anything else.  Once something comes between the reader and story, he’s out.

There are techniques to draw your reader into the consciousness of a character or characters.  The first step is to let the reader visualize the character, which requires detail, not abstractions, and to put him in a place and a time where he begins to  see the character for himself.  He may add details that you, the author, haven’t provided.  Beware of too many details.  Make them pertinent, not endless.  Ground the scene, give the reader time and place, pick and chose what details are important, and let the reader do the rest.  When a reader begins to imagine a character he comes closer to wondering much more.  What’s the character doing, why, what’s she going to do next, how will everything turn out?

People generally visualize something before they put thoughts into patterns, so the visual in storytelling is an extremely powerful tool.  The more vivid the images you create, the more powerful they become and the more likely the reader is to remember them and associate them with a particular character.  This is where language works its magic.

Go back to the idea that you’re writing the reader’s story.  What does this mean?  It means he’s loving and hateful and fearful and envious and violent and peaceful and compassionate and humble and proud.  He’s happy and he’s sad.  Evoke his emotions.  If a reader can visualize a character and begin to experience his emotions, as if they were his own emotions, he’s going to going along for the ride.  He’s going to want to know how everything turns out and he’ll stay with your characters to the end.

Let the reader visualize character

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