Invite the reader
a few tricks of making fiction gripping
Ó Dr Bob Rich (2005)- All Rights
All fiction is fantasy. As a writer, you
create a reality, and invite me to move into it
while reading your story. That reality may be
very close to what I find in my everyday life,
but even then, you are introducing me to people
I've never met, take me to places I've never
seen, describe events that never happened.
aim is to make this created reality so strong
that it becomes more real to me than my own
life--at least for the moment. Every device that
helps you to achieve this is good, everything
that has a chance of weakening or destroying the
illusion is bad.
Now we come to a central concept: 'point of
view' (POV). Everything anyone writes is always
from a POV. 'The boy crossed the road.' Someone
perceived him doing so, and the writing reports
this perception. Although the wording is in the
third person, the POV could well be the boy's, as
in the following:
The boy crossed
the road. Ow! Ow! he thought at
each step as the hot dark surface burned
the soles of his bare feet, but he
refused to make any sound. After all,
Rachel was watching.
Or, the witness of the scene could be some
The road must feel red hot,
Rachel thought with an inner smile as she
watched Roddie pick his way across,
almost dancing from foot to foot.
If the witness is not any person in the story,
then it is the writer:
The boy crossed the road. His name was
Roddie, a five-year-old very impressed by
her big cousin Rachel, all of twelve. So,
he wasn't going to let on that anything
could upset him. Therefore, when he
crossed the hot road barefoot to her, he
did his best to hide his discomfort.
However, he didn't really fool her. She
could see it from the way he picked up
each foot fast, almost like dancing.
This little paragraph has several things wrong
· It's an author lecture: an outside view that
distances us from the characters rather than
taking us into their world.
· It gives too much information. As a reader, I
am not there to be informed, unless I'm reading a
textbook. By telling me all these facts, you put
me into an analytical frame of mind. Then I'll be
critical, assessing the information I receive.
Instead, you want to get me to LIVE the current
witness's experience. And there is no hurry about
informing me. Their ages, the relationship
between them can be revealed later, through
dialogue, action, and (as a third preference),
· The paragraph reveals both their thoughts.
This is tempting, but instead of making the story
real, it gets in the way of allowing the reader
to identify with the current witness. I cannot BE
Roddie if I also know what Rachel is thinking, or
vice versa. The most powerful way to capture me
is to pick one person who presents the scene. Any
other people are best presented from the outside,
the way the current witness perceives them.
· The first two samples of writing were vivid,
full of sensory data: how that person sees,
feels, hears the world at that moment. The third
one lacks such elements.
Let me illustrate the relatively subtle point
of how an 'omniscient view' can be
counterproductive. I am reading a story about two
sisters, and have been immersed in the world of
Joan, the elder girl. Then the author writes,
'Miriam eventually drifted off to sleep,
remembering the wonderful meal they had enjoyed
that afternoon, but Joan lay awake.' This is a
perfect example of how head hopping distances the
reader. Because I am shown the thoughts of both
girls, I cannot identify with either, and
therefore I FEEL that I am being told a story,
not that I am in it.
So, in summary, to bring your writing to life,
present it from within, through the perceptions
of ONE character per scene, using vivid sense
the author: Dr Bob Rich is a professional
editor and multiple award-winning writer. His 13th book
has just been published. This book could save your
life, titled 'Cancer: A
personal challenge'. Other
books by him teach you
how to build your own house , deal with
emotional problems or simply to
enjoy yourself. Look him up at