Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. I  want to learn what it takes to make it in the world of writing and publishing and nowadays there is a wealth of information on the web. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City.

Today’s guest post is by the lovely Marcia Richards, a veteran blogger, who is author of the blog, Marcia Richards…Married With Stories, which offers posts on writing, mid-life, history, and a little bit of wickedness.

Marcia is creating her debut historical trilogy covering the years between 1917 and 1975. The Donnelly’s, an immigrant Irish family struggles with economic troubles and personal tragedy, while striving to maintain their dreams. The trilogy highlights three generations of strong, young women fighting their way to the fulfillment of their dreams, learning who they are along the way.

There is a lot of excellent technical writing advice available for the novice writer and it pays to read and learn. I think most of us have begun to read a book that caught our attention with the blub or the first paragraph, but after a few chapters, we put it down, never to go back to it again.

© Stanislav Matyashov | Dreamstime.com
© Stanislav Matyashov | Dreamstime.com

One of the more important concepts is how to hook your reader. How do you draw that reader into your story and keep them hanging on right to the end? For new writers, especially, it’s an elusive concept, like trying to catch a firefly. The light comes on and, then almost as quickly, it goes out. “Where’d it go?” you wonder as you stand in the dark, searching and waiting for the light to come on again. The idea of holding onto your reader can be explained in many ways. You’ll think you’ve got it but, when you try to put it into practice, you lose it.

These are the tips that have finally helped me to get it and hang on to it. I hope they’ll help you, too.

1. Give your main character a goal – Create something that makes the MC reach beyond his perceived limits. He can’t be allowed to stand around and watch what everyone else is doing or how the rest of the world unfolds. He needs to be an active participant with hopes, dreams and desires to drive him to his goal.

2. Create some action for your main character – In working toward his goal, he has to encounter challenges. He needs to be the type to ‘take the bull by the horns’ and ‘make waves’ along the way. If he is always the victim, taking the brunt of everyone else’s actions, your reader will find him boring or passive, and will ‘pass’ on him.

3. Give readers the elements for which they hunger – A good story, believable characters, rich setting, and a theme to which they can relate are what readers care about most. Think of it as a recipe: 1 cup story, 1 1/2 cups characters, 1/4 cup setting, 1/4 cup theme. Stir until well-blended and serve. You can adjust the amounts of ingredients slightly, but without a proportionate mix of all of them, you’ll likely lose your readers before they have finished.

4. You can’t please everyone, but give it a go anyway – Try to strike a balance between lavish prose and artless prose. Write your best work avoiding cliches. Continually return to your books on structure for reminders and write with expression of all your senses to give readers the best experience.

5. Make ’em laugh – I, for one, tend to get too serious in my writing. Don’t follow me into that pothole. Humor prevents the story from becoming pretentious and brings it back down to earth. It’s one necessary view on life and tragedy to pull us out of the depths of perfection/sadness/hopelessness.

6. Less is more in setting and weather – Today’s readers generally will be put to sleep by extensive paragraphs describing the setting or the weather. The prose may be beautiful, but downright boring. Scatter a few sentences here and there in the context of the scene, rather than follow the path of some past literary writers dumping 600 words of description in one plop.

When you read, what puts you to sleep? Do you have other ideas on how to keep your reader reading?

Connect with Marcia on her blog and on Twitter.

Thank you so much to Marcia Richards for being the first guest poster here at Uni-Verse-City and providing such great writing tips. If you would like to guest post for Wednesday’s Writers’ Uni-Verse-City or on another topic, just email Nicole Basaraba at [email protected]

4 thoughts on “Guest Post – 6 Ways to Keep Your Readers Engaged”

  1. Nicole, it was my pleasure to guest post for you. You’re a wonderful hostess and have a unique blog. Thank you!

  2. Great tips Marcia! I think the biggest one for me is “you can’t please everyone”. I think most writers want to be loved by everyone and find that broad appeal, but the reality is that there will always be critics or people with different tastes in writing that will be offended or irritated with our work. Getting past that is a part of the professional journey for a writer. Thanks for the excellent reminder.

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