Monday, May 10, 2010

Let's Play Stump the Reader

“Or maybe she became so familiar with the elements of her plot that she neglected the obvious: the reader is not.” -- Steve Almond in This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey.
I read a number of unpublished stories lately that didn’t provide sufficient information for me to get involved enough with the characters or the plot to care about what happened (assuming something did). I was left wondering what the heck was going on. The author presented a riddle without enough clues for me to figure the story out.

Sometimes this may occur because we authors are so involved with the characters and plot that everything is perfectly clear in our minds, and we forget the reader doesn't know what we know. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the author who knows little more about a character than the reader does.

Mr. Almond, in a separate article, advised authors to not withhold information known by their characters. This makes sense. Writing is not a game of stump the reader. It’s a sharing of the experiences, feelings, and opinions of our characters. This can't happen if we don't participate openly with our partner in the story--the reader.

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