1. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

    Jan 28, 2014
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    Gaining your readers' trust

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Catrin Lewis, Feb 19, 2017.

    Just throwing this out there for general discussion:

    How do we as writers gain and keep our readers' trust?

    Let's assume our writing shows a good grasp of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and so on. Let's take it as read that we can put a coherent sentence together. What do we need to do after that?

    I'm talking especially about characters, settings, situations, etc., that are introduced after the initial hook/inciting incident, that may or may not have an obvious connection at that point to the story question as first revealed. The reader with faith in the author will think, "Ah, this will be Important later. I'll read on and find out how." The doubting reader will grouse, "What does XYZ have to do with it? This writer has gone off the rails and I'm not reading more of her story."

    How do we make sure our readers trust that we know what we're doing and stay with us?

    And . . . do you find that we writers as a class approach other people's stories with more skepticism than a reader-who-isn't-an-author would? Do we open a new book actively looking for things to question?

    Or does it vary by the individual?
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

    Jan 8, 2017
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    Rhode Island
    It's really simple for me as reader. Don't tell me shit I already know. Don't tell me shit that you've already shown clearly. Don't repeat shit like I'm an idiot. Don't modify every noun and speaker attribute because that comes off as weak and diffident, and why in the world would I want to read weak shit? If you want to make your characters silly and ridiculous that's fine (I love absurdity), but don't ask me to care about them later. Don't smash me in the face with interior monologue. Don't hose me down with explanation. And do not, under any circumstances, tell my imagination what to do or where to go or what to think. Just give me enough to play with and we'll be fine. When writers avoid these things I will trust them implicitly, almost pathetically, and will have full faith that my imagination is in good hands and that they will take me where I need to go. Treat me like an idiot and my wrath will know no limits.

    Personally, I don't approach books like this at all. In fact, the more I write the more I enjoy other people's writings. I'm never looking to be critical until I feel a need to. Things usually end badly after that. I've heard others mention that writing has ruined some of the imaginary potential of reading for them, but I try to avoid that.
    Tenderiser, Catrin Lewis and Lifeline like this.
  3. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

    Mar 21, 2012
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    You see, that is so sweeping. Coming from [the] foothills of 'new writing' magazines and such, this point is everything for 'confidence.'

    I know too, once you begin writing yourself, you never enjoy a paperback quite the same way, become a pompous ass reading million dollar thrillers:

    'Sweetheart, look at this book I'm reading, clause really does not require, the comma, eh?'


    'Repetition, repetition...nnng.'

    Next would be 'voice.' If the writer sounds like 'a writer,' or wormy, or really dumb, or metropolitan, or uses a Churchill quotation, or is shrill about bathrooms and dirty kitchens, or children getting sunburned, then I would stop reading.
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  4. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

    Feb 4, 2017
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    Greater London, England
    I have to admit, more examples of how you'd break your readership's trust are coming to mind, so I'm going to name a couple:

    -Making the reader believe you think them to be stupid.
    -Not doing your homework before writing about it (especially if it involves historical backstories).
    -Throwing consistency to the wind and pulling your plot out of your behind.

    There's a good episode of Fillmore! a Disney Channel cartoon, that touched on this called 'The Unseen Reflection'.
    Catrin Lewis and Lifeline like this.
  5. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

    Aug 12, 2015
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    London, UK
    Don't snag them with a fake hook just to make your first sentence /paragraph/page gripping. I just beta read one that starts with a body being discovered, and within a page pans out to show we're watching a play.

    I understand authors do this because of all the advice out there saying readers will get bored within a sentence, but don't fall for it. Don't assume readers have the attention spans of goldfish on coke.
    Catrin Lewis and Homer Potvin like this.
  6. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

    Sep 7, 2013
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    On the positive side, I need to have a desire to read. The story needs to be intriguing or the setting interesting, engaging my curiosity to know more and what happens next.

    On the negative side, each niggle is discouraging. There may be too many names to remember and I become unsure of which character is which, there may be a lack of detail in the setting and I make assumptions that turn out to be wrong. The setting or characters may be unrealistic so they just seem wrong. Too much detail is tedious. When I read, I want to forget I'm reading a book and feel I'm there with the characters. Anything that pulls me out of that world is a straw on the camels back.

    Many people have books on their bookshelves with bookmarks in them, where they've started to read but put the book down at the end of a session and haven't picked it up again. Some of these books are best sellers. When there are too many straws on the camels back, the reluctance to read on outweighs the desire to read on and the book acquires a bookmark as a permanent lodger.
    ddavidv likes this.

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