|You have thoughts. You write
them down as words. Later, others read them and
your thoughts become theirs. Spooky, eh?
Im sure it was once, when the
Druids roamed prehistoric Europe, exchanging
information in the form of archaic symbols.
I imagine the illiterate masses
looked on with awe and not a little fear,
convinced these markings the magicians called
"words" had power in themselves.
Its interesting that the
echo of the magical context of writing is still
with us, contained in the word "spell",
with its double meaning.
If you think about it, the
question, "How do you SPELL that?"
literally means, "How do you conjure that
image with symbols?"
The science of semiotics is a
broad subject one that is way outside the
scope of these lessons, but I want to share with
you its basic premise:
Ahem. The human brain needs to
NAME something before it becomes REAL.
The idea is that, before
something is named, it doesnt really exist
because either our awareness of it is too dim to
understand it, or, if we havent noticed it
yet, it might as well not be there.
BTW, Im not making this
up, honest, this is Major level philosophy!
Anyway, the important thing is
that once named an object can then
"exist" to someone who hasnt
actually seen it!
This is a pretty neat trick,
unique to the human race, but also one we take
completely for granted.
Its only words that make
And its also why writing
Your job as a fiction writer is
to place invented objects, images and emotions
into other peoples heads. Do this well and
your career will prosper.
Good writing is a form of
hypnosis. You use the rhythm of words to put your
readers into a kind of trance, so that they are
more receptive to your ideas.
When a reader is happy to
experience this, they are said to be in the
In order to keep your reader
"entranced", there must be nothing in
your writing that might startle them out of this
Your reader must trust you and
be able to give over their imagination to you.
You, in turn, must honor that trust by playing by
the "rules" of good storytelling.
I cover the "rules"
in detail in "The Easy Way to Write a
Novel" but in general terms, anything that
jars the reader out of their dream is bad.
Theres one technique in
particular that can destroy a readers
confidence in your storytelling skills.
is where you express a personal opinion about a
character, situation or scene. Or where you
describe anything your characters could not be
Although you, the author, is
considered to be an omniscient viewer and
recorder of events, you must also be seen to be
objective and invisible. Though it would
seem to contradict common sense, the reader
should be unaware of you, the writer.
Im sure youve heard
of the phrase, "Willing suspension of
disbelief". This is the state of
consciousness youre after.
The reader "knows"
that theyre being told a story but,
because, they like and trust you, they are
willing to make a slight shift in their minds and
accept what youre saying as the truth - for
the time being.
Therefore, during storytelling,
you must never break the spell - that word again
by offering witty asides, stating your
views or commenting on the action.
Of course, rules are made to be
broken. There are times when authorial intrusion
Some authors use it as a way of
introducing a story but quickly retire to the
sidelines. A technique as old as storytelling
Others use it at the end of a
story, to wrap up events like some movie voice
over. It works sometimes - as long as you
dont sound over smart or condescending!
But if you really want your
readers trust, keep them in the fictive
dream. Let them live the characters and
situations without distraction. Let them enjoy
the feeling of being swept along by a story and
taken out of themselves for a while.
Theyll love you for it.