Whenever I open a book to read for the first time I have a great sense of anticipation. Will this be my new favourite read? Will I be able to close it half way through, or will it keep me gripped until the end? Very rarely do I ever consider, ‘how will this book make me feel?’, and yet by the time I close the covers this is thing that stays with me – the feeling, the emotions that I’ve just experienced, the journey that the author has taken me on.
So, how do they do it? Speaking from my own experience of writing, it wasn’t until I understood what my values were as a writer that I began to even consider this question. Usually I just wrote my stories as they poured from my head onto the paper/screen. At that time the words were mostly for me, I hadn’t even considered a reader. But, as I began to share my work, and saw the response it would get from family, friends and those in my writing groups, I realised that as a writer my aim was to get people to stop and reflect.
I am, by nature, a fairly reflective individual myself. I like to analyse the ‘why’ of things, but while I enjoy doing this I don’t really want it to appear in my writing. Early on, it was identified by my critique partners that I tended to repeat myself in my writing. I didn’t trust the reader to determine what I was trying to communicate; mainly because I wasn’t truly clear on what it was I wanted to say.
It was then that I started to pay attention to what other authors were saying, not through the words themselves but through the emotions their writing provoked in me. Crime, in which I felt concern for the characters, or confusion at the murderers; Romance, even when I knew characters would end up together I would despair at the idiocy two people could demonstrate; Psychological Thrillers, where I wouldn’t be able to stop reading because I needed to know what happened next – all of them, inciting curiosity but not all the same type. It was then that I realised the reason we read isn’t because we want new stories but because we are seeking out new experiences.
Once I realised this, I started looking at my own stories and discovered that while I had themes of death, memory, loss, and regret the emotions that I was attempting to evoke were nostalgia, sentiment and reflection. I want my readers to take a moment of pause, to release a breath and recognise that invaluable space between the life of the character and their own. Sometimes I want them to feel surprise – because who doesn’t enjoy a little twist in the tale? – but still, I typically try and include an undercurrent of tranquillity in the majority of my writing.
Of course, now I understand what it is I want readers to feel I can play with it a little. I can manipulate my writing more fluently to explore how I might be able to shift my readers’ emotions. If nothing else, my own comprehension of how I want a reader to feel has expanded my writing repertoire and that’s only a good thing.
Interested in being one of my readers?
You can find my collection of short stories on Amazon.