Speed Readers, Re-Readers

I saw a post about writing fiction that the reader is forced to read quickly. In theory, I think it’s a fine idea to impel a reader forward. All good stories make the reader speed up, looking for answers to the questions a writer has raised. I tend to speed read, and while it gets me through a novel quickly it doesn’t help me savor beautiful turns of phrase. That said, readers want action.
Writing Tip for Today: By tightening up the plot points, dialogue and other action-related elements, the reader is hurtled through a story. Most of us need to heed the advice not to linger too long in any scene, any chunk of narrative. What are some ways to accomplish this “fast fiction?”

  • Rule of 3. In dialogue, speed up your story by keeping lines short and not allowing a character to say more than three lines before cutting away to another speaker, action or other “beat.”
  • More Rule of 3. Limit back story or narrative to 3 sentences or 3 paragraphs, depending on the situation.
  • Eliminate Extra Scenes. Unless your character is going to be attacked in the shower, leave out the mundane things we all do. Waking up, smelling coffee, etc. must have a purpose other than to show a character waking up and smelling coffee.
  • Make Characters Work. Literally. Why can’t characters talk WHILE they wash dishes, garden, fix cars? Try not to put your characters at a table too often.
  • Develop Your Voice. If readers know what to expect from your “voice,” they can read faster because they know what to expect.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

1 comment on “Speed Readers, Re-Readers

  1. This is such great advice. I am in the middle of reading a book right now that is becoming cumbersome because of some of these points. I’m reading it upon the request of the author or I would probably just drop it altogether. I am actually interested in the story itself, but it seems it takes so long to move anywhere because of these very things you’ve pointed out. Frustrating!

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