Ask any reader, writer, editor, or publisher what the most important aspect of fiction writing is and you’ll doubtless hear a variety of thoughts. Plot. Characters. Setting. Description. Showing rather than telling. Yes, they’re all great answers, but without one key element, one all-encompassing aspect, any story is doomed to fail.
What is it?
If we as readers aren’t drawn in, our senses engaged on another level – that ‘DON’T BOTHER ME I’M IN ANOTHER DIMENSION!’ feeling – then the book will be placed aside in hopes of finding another that will take us from reality.
Personally, I’ve started over a dozen new-to-me author’s books in the last couple of months and didn’t finish A SINGLE ONE. Why? I wasn’t drawn in, the switch for my empathy wasn’t flipped on.
So how DO we engage our reader’s senses? In all kinds of ways.
1 A gripping plot, one that rolls along with twists and turns which raise our brows or drop our jaw hinges wide open. The type of story line that keeps us turning (or clicking) pages way too late into the night hours.
2 Characters we feel empathy for, ones whose own problems may or may not mirror our own. They just need our sympathy, our pompoms waving in the wind.
3 Setting and description go hand in hand as far as I’m concerned. Don’t get all flowery full of words and poetic paragraphs I’ll skip over in search of the good stuff – fill our senses instead. Sight, hearing, smell, heck – taste even! Use precise words, ones loaded with meaning. And, a little imagery goes a LONG @$$ way.
Why say he walked across the room toward me? BORING. I’d rather see him swagger with a knowing smirk, one that catches my breath and sends my heart all a flutter. State that he smells of wood smoke and the outdoors (YUM!) or that the timbre of his voice sends shivers down my spine.
Ok. Enough of the romance.
Create the scene – the movie – in a readers’ mind. Captivate their attention and make it impossible for them to put your book down. Satisfy their craving to leave this world and enter one of make believe.
THAT is the most important thing you can do when creating a story. Engage a reader and gain a faithful follower, one that will hopefully spread the word of your awesomeness.