Today’s writing arena is very crowded. Everyone, it seems, wants to write and publish their fiction. One of the fiction writer’s most pressing questions these days has to be, “How can I make my story stand out?”
Writing Tip for Today: Practice, determination and skill-building are important–but they’re not everything. Here are three more ways to take your fiction from good to wow:
The Aww Factor
When a child or a cute animal enters a room, all eyes go directly to that cuteness, and the grown-ups all say, “Awww.” In life and in story, children and gentle pets or cute animals usually upstage the adults. Try adding a small child or a beloved animal to your story. Adding the “Awww” factor makes readers care more about your character and it adds a layer of sympathy. When readers know a character is an animal or small child lover, advocate or helper, it tells them that this character is probably trustworthy, courageous or patient. What other traits do you think of for this type of character? Your answer might amplify the same trait for your reader.
Give it a Gut Punch
Similarly, adding a circumstance or obstacle to your character’s life can increase the sympathy and caring concern readers develop for this person. If a character is mad at the world, for instance, telling readers that this mad as heck guy just lost his whole family to a violent person, a natural disaster or a terrible illness may help readers justify the rage. The story’s stakes are automatically raised by placing a dangerous obstacle in your character’s path, either as part of the main story or as a subplot. Readers are more apt to identify with a character who is teetering on the brink of being overwhelmed by life than a character who has a perfect life.
The most potent agent for making readers care is to offer them, by way of the character’s journey, some type of life-changing discovery in the story. This doesn’t mean you preach to the reader. Your character must grapple with serious obstacles and seem to be on the brink of losing everything. Yet if you offer the character a way to overcome these obstacles that is life-affirming, redemptive and/or positive, you also give the readers a chance to see these same solutions in their own lives. Both the book and movie versions of “The Shack” are examples of a character who struggles with faith, doubts and is nearly hopeless, but who is changed for the better after his encounters with the divine. Whether you love or hate the story, The Shack illustrates how an ordinary character’s very human struggles are ripe for redemption. Readers love to be reminded that even though life is difficult, there are still mysteries of faith that keep us going long after the last page is turned. Write your fiction with your “Light” turned on.