1. kablooblab
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    kablooblab Member

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    How do I make a reader feel like they are in the book?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by kablooblab, Jan 26, 2011.

    I've noticed when I read some books I feel like I am in the story and it's almost like I feel their emotions and these are always my favorite kinds of books. But when I read my own writing I feel like someone is telling a story to me. Can someone help me and provide examples.
     
  2. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    I think it depends on how well you can connect to the story. If you have felt the emotions the characters have, been in the same conflicts, fought the same types of emotional battles, you will be able to recount those events in your own life as you read the story. If you have not, it will be a new feeling, hence the sense that someone is telling the story to you rather than you are experiencing the emotions and events again.

    And, of course, the writer's technical skill (sentence structure, word choice, etc.) influences it a lot as well.
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Hey there,

    One really great tip I got from a mentor is that you should "Make the reader BE, the character, not SEE the character."

    This means that you need to really appeal to the 5 senses, but avoid phrases like "I saw," "I thought," etc. These create the tone of the character talking to a reader, thus the reader cannot BE the character.

    For example, let's say we're talking about it being cold outside. You could say "It was cold and I could feel myself getting goosebumps," but that's 1) telling and not showing, and 2) the reader cannot be the character because the character is addressing the reader. Instead, you could try something like "I hated the cold because it made my hands dry." You're showing, and also you're not saying something like "I feel."

    This is the case whether you're dealing with first person, limited third, etc.

    Remember to appeal to the 5 senses and to be specific!

    Hope I helped.

    By the way I love your avatar.
     
  4. kablooblab
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    kablooblab Member

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    Thanks mallory, I like your avatar too. Thats great advice and just what I was looking for in the examples
     
  5. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Yep, what Mallory said.

    A great tool is learning how to method act. As the writer you have to become the character to know everything the character may be thinking and feeling any given moment.

    Then you have to learn to deliver that truth in a believable way by giving the story through the eyes of the character. This is the tough part, of course. Any little mistake, a detail that rings untrue or a thought that doesn't seem in character, will obliterate your authority as a writer and remind the reader they aren't experiencing a world, but being told a story.

    How to execute is what people spend their whole lives learning. The first step is to realize you aren't just telling a story about a character, but through a character.

    As I write and revise, I'm constantly asking myself things like 'would this character really be feeling this' 'what would this character notice in this room' 'how would this character express his guild and frustration in this moment, with this other character in the room and a fire going in the fireplace and knowing tomorrow he's getting on a train and never coming back'

    Yes. I get that specific. Anyone can general describe what A character MAY do, but you have to figure out what this one, singular character--no, person--would do, think, feel etc, in ever single moment of your story, or it will just become a distant, told story about a character, not an experience of this one character.

    This is what people talk about when they say their characters write the story. When you know a character so well, they just end up doing things they would do without you needing to force it.

    I have a story where I literally had no clue the two characters were going to kiss until I was writing that she was leaning in to kiss him. I was dubious it was the right thing, since I hadn't planned it, but after finishing the scene I realized it was right. Why? Because that's exactly what happened and what my characters would do in that exact situation. There was no other options (even if I hate-hate-hate the fact they got all mushy on me).

    When you get to the place where you're writing what happened, as if there were no other thing that could happen, is when you start finding your work is specific and singular, and usually because the truth of a character as a person, and the setting as a world, all start to exist as if they were real.

    To get there, though, a lot of getting to know your characters and trying your best to record their story, not you writing them into your story, because it isn't your story, it's theirs.
     
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  6. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Popsicledeath, once I get more done on my novel, may I email it to you for some tips on how to improve character development? I'm better with plots and with laying out what happened in a short and snappy manner, so developing characters is a bit harder for me. Great post, btw.
     
  7. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Not sure if I have that kind of time/dedication. If you post an excerpt here on the forums (or feel more comfortable sending me an expert directly), I'll certainly go over it. An entire novel though might be too much for me to get to in a reasonable amount of time.
     
  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Oh of course lol..specific scenes, that's what I meant. :) And if you ever want help on your stuff, let me know!
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    The books that capture me have been varied in their approach but an identifiable strong character, and clear description are the things that all have in common.

    Remember your characters have five senses when you describe things, and more than one emotion.

    Personally I always start with a basic stereotype and let the character grow through the story, I find it gives them a widely identifiable base.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no magical formula... the best way to learn how to do this is to read the works of the best writers and see how they make that happen...
     
  11. impure
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    impure Member

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    Write in second person.
    OT: Use 'flashbacks' and leave the reader to interpret the rest
     
  12. R-e-n-n-a-t
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    R-e-n-n-a-t Contributing Member

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    Flying Spaghetti Monster is awesome!
     
  13. AxleMAshcraft
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    AxleMAshcraft Member

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    I don't know if this has been said (I'm really not in the mood to read through all those pages of comments) but when I'm having this problem here is what I do.
    -Go back and look through your dialogue. Add more there, more detail, more hand gestures ect. and whats going on while they are having the dialogue. When your talking to someone in real life there is hardly ever just ONE thing going on, try to do that in your writing :) (NOTE: this can be a lot harder then it sounds.)
    -Describe everything: thoughts, actions, gestures, habits, addictions, conversations, that random guy walking down the street, the wind, the rain, the sun, the walkway, the ground, the air, anything and everything that seemed completely irrelevant but is something that people would notice.
    -try to put your MC in as many different situations as possible: embarrassed, happy, sad, angry, annoyed, ect. Just so everything and everyone appears relatively human. (unless your writing SciFi...where you aren't writing in a human perspective, if so insert other lifeform here)
    -one thing I do a lot is write reactions to things. For example I've used it a million times, that moment when your heart feels like it stops when you get nervous or scared of something, then your mouth gets all dry and you feel like you can't really breath...if you look into those moments as much as possible that might help.
    discard if you want, use if you want, it's up to you. Hope this helps :D
     

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