We read fiction for many reasons. To be entertained, to find out who done it, to travel to strange new planets to be scared, to laugh, to cry, to think, to feel, to be so absorbed that for a while, we forget where we are.
So how about writing fiction, how do you set your readers into your stories. With an exciting plot, maybe. Fascinating characters, probably. Beautiful language, perhaps.
The point of fiction is to cast a spell, a momentary illusion that you are living in the world of the story.
Fiction engages the senses and helps us create vivid mental simulacra of the experiences the characters are having.
Stage and screen engage some of our senses directly. We see and hear the interactions of the characters and the setting. But with prose fiction all you have is static symbols on a contrasting background. If you describe the story in matter of fact non tactile language, the spell risks being a weak one, your reader may not get much beyond interpreting the squiggles.
She’ll be reading. Not immersed in the world of the story.
Fiction plays with our senses, taste, smell, touch, hearing, sight and a sense of motion. It also plays with our ability to abstract and make complex associations.
Writers are always told to avoid cliches because there’s very little engagement for the reader in an overused image such as red as a rose, but give them, “Love began on a beach. It began that day when Jacob saw Annette in her stewed cherry dress.”
Their brains engage in the absorbing task of figuring out what a stewed cherry dress is like. Suddenly they’re on a beach, about to fall in love, they’re experiencing the story at both a visceral and a conceptual level, meeting the writer halfway in the imaginative play of creating a dynamic world of the senses.
So when you write, use well chosen words to engage sound sight, taste, touch, smell, and movement. Then create unexpected connotations among the story elements, and set your readers brush fire imaginations alight.
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