I have a 12 year old daughter, Cherice, who is a voracious reader. She can go into a library without having any idea what story to pick, and five minutes later she comes out with a book. Once she starts reading the book, she goes on and on about how good it is. I have wondered to myself how this is possible when I can spend an hour in the library reading the vignettes of potential books only to find the book I end up taking home doesn’t hold my interest beyond the first chapter.
So, I decided that I would interview my daughter and find out exactly what it was that she found interesting about a story. Then I thought why not share this information with others so that they may be able to incorporate some of these ideas into their own writing.
We eventually talked about what she liked concerning:
In this blog, I’m going to focus on storyline.
Cherice likes a story line that has an issue come up early in the story, and at the time, the significance of the issue is not clear. Only later does the issue play a significant part in the story. For example, in the book Divergent (Veronica Roth, 2011), early in the story the protagonist admits that there is only one mirror in her house and that she is only allowed to look in the mirror for a few minutes per day. This idea grabbed my daughter’s attention and she was willing to read on and sacrifice her time to find out why this was so. There may be a technical term for this, but for the purpose of this blog entry I’m going to call it “anticipation,” because that’s what it does for my daughter. She begins to wonder how this event will tie into the story later, and, therefore, it keeps her turning the pages.
It’s my opinion that a lot of good stories seem to be written in reverse. This process allows the author to plant items of anticipation early in the story knowing that he/she will resolve them later.
In another example from the book Fablehaven (Brandon Mull, 2006), early in the story a brother and his sister are told by their Grandfather that they cannot go into the woods. Of course my daughter, like so many other readers, had to find out what was in the woods, so it kept her turning the pages.
Cherice is only 12, so the anticipation that keeps her turning the pages of a book might be different for an older or younger reader. Regardless of the age of the reader, he/she has to be given a reason to turn the page. What better reason than to continually raise the reader’s curiosity with good anticipation.
Your daughter is an intelligent, thoughtful child. I wish more children enjoyed reading books. As a true Book Lover, I can’t imagine a life without reading.
Writing in reverse is a great way to set up expectations and pull readers into a story as the tale unfolds. We all want to know *how* did the ending happen?
Nice Tim. Looking forward to next month.
Yes, that is what keeps me reading.
Nice insight to the youthful reader, Tim. Thanks for sharing.