Monday, November 29, 2010

Keeping it Interesting

Léopoldine au livre d'heures by Auguste de Chatillon --1813 - 1881I don’t know what it is about me lately, but I’ve been a difficult reader to please.

I think it’s the fact that I’ve been unusually busy since late-July. But it seems to me that I’ve been a more impatient reader than ever before—that when I reach a boring patch, it shouldn’t last very long or else I’m going to find something else to read.

This worries me—as a reader and a writer.

I was an English major and classical literature is known for its boring spots. :) I was always able to wade through it before…but I had a whole lot more time on my hands and was definitely a more patient reader.

As a writer, I’m working harder to make sure my story doesn’t drag. I’m reading my manuscripts as an impatient reader and looking for places where my book needs a little shaking up.

Here’s a list I’ve come up with on little ways (well, some of them are bigger ways) to keep things interesting for readers:

Change the setting (are the characters spending too much time sitting and eating?)

Add more dialogue.

Introduce a new character. Or, if you’re me, kill off an old one. :)

Shake up the sentence structure. Are all your sentences starting with the subject, followed by a verb (should you start some with participles or subordinate clauses)? Are there too many nouns preceded by adjectives (should you be choosing stronger verbs)?

Introduce a plot twist.

Add to the conflict.

I also get worn out with too much conflict (I warned you I’m becoming the impossible reader!) So maybe infuse some humor to break up the tension.

Move the characters around. Have them engage in an activity if they’re sitting a lot.

Use both long and short sentences.

Show more than tell.

Cut out the dead wood in the book. Do I have any scenes that seem dead? Do these scenes serve a purpose, or can they be cut out…or could the information in the scene be conveyed in a different way (through dialogue, etc.)?

How do you keep your readers interested?