You guys, I’m super excited for my first guest post. Margaret Alexander is the author of Shadows of Penumbra, and she very kindly agreed to drop by. Woo!
A while back I was reading the NYR blog and I came across a post about one man who made a fortune off of ellipses. Yes, you heard right, the [dot dot dot]. I can’t find the post or recall his name, or the name of the website (convenient, right?), but the point is not the man or what he did, it’s how he did it. He lured readers of even the most mundane topics to his website by offering promise of an outrageous story. He knew how to market through his writing. Which is a skill we can all afford to polish: how to make people read the next sentence.
When I think back to it, that’s how I initially started out writing a story that lasted longer than a chapter. I asked myself if I wanted to know what happened next, and when others asked as well, I thought it worth a shot. Now I’m not so sure anymore. There is so much magnetic writing out there that many people just don’t know where to stick their reading magnet.
Heck, I’m a reader, and even I don’t know. I’ve got a shelf of books I’d love to read and here I sit juggling, wondering if the next story I read will somehow alter my life or writing.
If I can agree on anything, it’s that magnetic writing shares these traits:
A voice of confidence: The writer knows his/her story, whether it’s told by an omniscient narrator or a character. Every line comes out like a punch because there’s no doubt. The author is sure with where it’s going and (s)he’s got one helluva tale to tell, so you better sit down, shut up, and listen.
But the voice isn’t arrogant: Confidence and arrogance aren’t necessarily the same thing. The characters you meet aren’t written off as perfect immediately on the page. If anything, their flaws are written out first, plain and naked for all to see. And then they backtrack to show what really makes them worthwhile despite their damaged nature.
No filler: By definition, magnetic writing doesn’t do filler. It keeps the reader’s attention all the way with its intense and involved plot, where something either fascinating or outrageous is happening with every new word read. It could also, of course, be emotionally engaging.
Holds your attention: Seems redundant to state, but even if it’s not a topic that interest you, the writing somehow sucks you in. Why? No one really knows. But they call it “the voice.” Not just the confident voice, but the funny, creepy, amorous, intricate, or scheming voice. Sometimes conversational and other times the hefty British narrator. I’ve even read zombie voice, and I gotta say, it was pretty entertaining.
The truth is, back in the day of our successful dot-dot-dotter, there was far less competition (and possibly longer attention spans). And now, magnetic voice is pretty much the least you can do. On top of that, you need great covers, advertising, and word of mouth. And with more and more books added to the shelves every day, the list grows.
Should we despair? Should we throw the blankets over our heads and moan, “Woe is me, I’ll never get noticed!” or “I’ll never pick a book to read!”? I think not. I believe we are all equally capable of magnetic writing, and so long as we achieve that first step, the rest are sure to come [dot dot dot].
Since I have this opportunity, I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my debut novel, SHADOWS OF PENUMBRA:
His face, with the exception of slight intrigue, had not changed in expression since their conversation began and neither had his stance. Was he even human?
When he had yet to reply, she elaborated, “The real question is, can you or can you not tell me something I would never have thought of? If you can’t, there’s no doubt about it; you’re simply an illusion and all I’ll be able to do about you is convince myself you aren’t real, that all of this is in my head.”
His eyes narrowed a little. “You want a reality check? Very well. The massacre that occurred in Japan was real. The cause of it was real as well; the world saw the message, not just you. But am I real? Was your Shadow real—?”
“—I’ll prove it quite simply through the revelation of something that may shock you.”
– Margaret E. Alexander (aka Story Addict)