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January, 2008

Bev Walton Porter

Remember The Reader
Target: effective balance of details
By  Bev Walton-Porter

The last thing you want to do is bore your reader. Get to the point and hit them early.
Not long ago, I found myself on page 100 of a well-known author’s novel. One-third of the way into the novel, there wasn’t much happening, save for extended descriptions of things and people that didn’t advance the story. The book was supposed to mix suspense and horror, except there wasn’t much of either up to that point in the book.

As a reader, by page 100 I expect something to happen. By page 100, a book’s author is obligated to entertain the reader, not induce sleep! Faced with the quandary of gritting my teeth and finishing the book or pitching the tome into the unfinished pile, I bit my lip and made an agonizing choice.
The end result? I closed the book and never finished reading past page 100. As one bumper sticker reads: "So many books, so little time." That could be amended to: "So many good books, so little time for bad books." After that experience, it occurred to me that I’d learned an important lesson for all writers: Never forget that while you may be writing for yourself, you’re also writing for readers. Without readers, you have no audience. Without an audience, you’ve lost a crucial element in the writing/publishing process.
As a freelance writer, diversification is my middle name. I’ve penned nonfiction books and fiction books; I’ve written contemporary romance, humour, and horror. One thing I’ve learned along the way is that, while I craft fiction from the mindset of a writer, it’s also important to put myself into the reader’s shoes as well. And as a reader, too much narrative and over-description or narration in fiction kills the story for me every time.
If you’re a fiction writer, remember your readers aren’t stupid. They can – and should – be able to fill in the blanks with their imaginations. While you may want to paint a picture for your readers and show them what each scene looks like externally – including upholstery, furnishings, characters’ dress and knick knacks – remember a little goes a long way. Describing a tapestry down to the last color and texture of fibre may give literary texture to your tale, but is the time you spend on that description advancing the story for your readers? If it’s not, then a laborious exploration of such extraneous minutiae serves as nothing more than filler for your fiction. Your story’s movement and flow should be active, not passive.
Apart from boring your readers, there is also a pace, or rhythm, to fiction. Too much narration will slow down that pace, while too much dialogue is like running a 50-yard dash – it can exhaust the reader. Aim for a balanced combination of narration and dialogue. Be aware of your balance and understand that given the specific needs of your story, on occasion you may have to infuse your fiction with more or less narrative and/or dialogue depending on plot and character circumstances.
Whether you’re crafting fiction or nonfiction, one rule should always remain the same: Don’t bore your readers with unnecessary details! Engage their minds from the beginning of the story, but do so with a compelling combination of narration and dialogue. If you’re writing a fiction story packed with mystery, you’d better deliver a tantalizing hook on the first page. If you’re penning romance, you’d better remember internal conflict and motivation, not just external details and descriptions. Long after readers complete your story, they will remember the mastered plot, expert structure, and realistic characters – not the shade of the draperies or the texture of the sitting-room rugs. Keep readers begging for your next page, not dreading it!
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Bev Walton-Porter is a multi-published author, freelance writer and writing instructor. Her work has appeared in numerous publications since she turned full-time writer in 1997. Her latest book is Sun Signs for Writers. She lives in Colorado with her fiancé, two teenagers and four lovely felines. 

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IN This Issue
Easy Readers
Write Angle
Writing Piffle
Remember The Reader
Making It Real
Out Of Order
Reality Suspension
Devilish Details

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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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