Pack a Punch When You Write
There is more to telling a story than just the story itself. A story can be good but without certain qualities readers are left unfulfilled and frustrated. It’s our job as authors and writers to stir the emotion of the reader, to draw them deep into a plot that leaves them begging to know what will happen. Yet at the same time, never allowing the obvious to occur.
Pulling together a story that packs this kind of punch takes time and crafting. Once you grasp hold of the elements that tie a reader into your work, you’ll have accomplished what many fail to deliver.
Here are five elements that you will help your story pack a punch.
1. Make it relate or resonate with the reader – A story that grabs the heart of the reader allows them connect. We tend to gravitate toward characters whom have some of our own tendencies (even if we don’t speak of them – we love characters that have a tiny bit of “us” in them.) “Find the scab in your heart and scratch it until it bleeds. When the blood comes you’re writing with emotion and true heart.” It takes practice and a certain amount of personal vulnerability to find this quality but once you do. Wow.
2. Stories that pack an punch, teach a deep lesson – Those stories we read that continue to gnaw away at us weeks later, have touched a nerve. They’ve us taught a lesson. For example, in Nicholas Sparks’ novel, Message in a Bottle, the lesson is tell those you love about it. Don’t wait. In a fleeting moment life can be snuffed out. After I read this novel, for weeks that message rang deep in my heart. Don’t take for granted life and its length. Regrets are terrible. The story taught a deep lesson and it stayed with me.
3. Stories that pack a punch are honest – Readers aren’t stupid. They don’t enjoy being told how to feel nor do they like a story that doesn’t ring true. The truth is, life is not easy…not for the reader nor should it be for your characters. Veer away from the storybook ending if the lives inside the story are not lending themselves to that. Characters make mistakes and they make choices. More times than not, they should make the same choices a real person would make (which by the way, is rarely the right one). So let your characters experience the truth in life. Let them make mistakes and then set a goal for them to work their way through it. Remember, life is not always a bowl of cherries. Be honest in your storyline.
4. Stories that pack a punch show the good, the bad and the ugly– No one is perfect. Neither is your hero/heroine. Even the good ones have bad qualities and likewise, the worst of the worst will have some vulnerability that makes you, if even for a split second, feel a little bad for them. Let your characters be real. Let their personalities develop and shine. Snow White on her best day was naïve. It worked to her detriment, but it didn’t make us love her any less. In fact, knowing that about her, made us pull for her when she faced conflict. Let your characters be their own person. You’ll be glad you did.
4. Stories that pack a punch leave room for the reader to make their own conclusions – Two things happen to writers. 1) We want to tie everything in a neat bow 2) We want to tell the reader how to feel. But it’s those stories that leave things a “bit unfinished” that bonds a reader to the characters and the story. Life doesn’t always end the way we want it. It’s fun as a reader, to wonder just a bit. Again, Nicholas Sparks does such a wonderful job with this. In his novel, The Notebook, you see Noah lying in the nursing home bed with his wife. The story leads you to see the two went to sleep. But sleep how? Sleep as in death or just asleep for the night. Everything that leads up to this closing allows you to believe they die…but there’s that element of question. Did they? And you don’t find out until you read The Wedding, that Noah in fact did not die. Sparks allowed the reader to make their own conclusion. He didn’t tell them how they should feel or why, but he tied up the story and added an element of mystery.
5. Stories that impact define us – The stories we read and write innately say something about us. They allow us to live in a fantasy for a short time, saying and doing things we’d never do in real life. When a writer builds in these qualities of whimsy and even suspense or mystery, readers sink in and become a deep part of the story, living their own dreams through your character. Find the qualities that help to define you. It may be fear or impulsivity or perhaps something else, but let those things find their way into your characters. You’ll find a certain magic will begins to happen.
Your assignment this week is to take your work in progress…whether fiction or non-fiction and find the elements that make your story grab and hold the reader. What have you done to pack a punch?