Writing Advice: No Straight Lines

http://www.openprocessing.org
http://www.openprocessing.org

A lot of writing advice tips talk about considering your reader. There are quotes out there about writing to a very specific reader. For instance, if you want your book to be read very closely and obsessively, then write toward that person. Make your story as detailed as possible with lots of continuity. If you’d rather have your reader be someone analytical, then you might include a lot of themes and hidden meanings. One thing is for certain, though. No matter what type of reader you’re writing for, you don’t want them to be bored.

Now, that is quite a broad stroke in terms of advice. Every reader is going to be different, so how will you know what might make one person bored, and wouldn’t make another person bored? Though that might be hard to say, there is one key thing to remember that Chuck Wendig encapsulated perfectly in his blog post: 25 Turns, Pivots, and Twists to Complicate Your Story. In this post, Wendig goes through a whole list of  ways to make your story interesting and then comes to the final one which is, I think, the most important one. Wendig calls this rule “the nature of boredom is a straight line,” and he writes:

“…Even the standard “escalation toward climax” is a straight line that needs to be kinked up and broken apart from time to time. Which means all of these techniques boil down to: change shit up. Envision what the audience will be thinking as they read it. What do they expect? What is the predictive course they have in their head? Then tweak that…Go risky. Get crazy. In life, we adore comfort. In fiction, comfort is our greatest enemy.”

I think this is amazingly helpful advice. We’re all taught to try and maintain that story structure of rising action toward a climax and here Wendig is saying to toss that aside sometimes in favor a more interesting plot. What I like most here is Wendig’s suggestion to take what readers might be expecting and go in the opposite direction. I think that’s a really neat piece of advice and something that would be interesting to try out.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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