Questions You Want From Readers dr. dawn field

Questions You Want From Readers

I want my readers to feel, to think, sometimes to laugh. But most of all I want them to enjoy a good read.

~Avi~


By Dawn Field

We all have a constant stream of thoughts coursing through our minds. What happens to this stream when we read a book? A great book makes us focus our thoughts and questions on the content. The best reads alter our inner monologue in a positive way.

Authors engineer our thoughts. The best reads are immersive. Authors should continuously bear this fact in mind. When you write you are actively making suggestions about what a reader should be thinking about and what questions they should be asking.

What do you hope to trigger? In a mystery, you want readers pondering ‘whodunit?’ In a romance you want readers to doggedly immersed in the trials and tribulations of true love.

The best reads are immersive. Authors should continuously bear this fact in mind. When you write you are actively making suggestions about what a reader should be thinking about and what questions they should be asking. Click To Tweet

Questions you Don’t Want From Readers

If you don’t chock a book full of enough brilliant content to keep an overactive mind entertained, you might get a stream of questions more like these:

Is that the cat scratching at the front door?

My dog could write better than this.

I wonder what font this is?

I wish the pages were smaller.

This book is heavy. I wonder how much it weighs? I should get back in the gym…

I could use some nachos right about now.

Why all the purple prose?

That last one was an editor reading for fun.

Many readers are very sophisticated in how they look at books.  They too can be ‘in the book’ but not asking the kinds of questions you hope for:

Why is this opening so tame? I want media res – the plane is making a landing for a fuel leak? Where’s the plane crash to kick things off proper?

This character is too perfect, hath she no flaws?

This author must have a passion for cats, I’ve never heard any character obsess about their pet this much.

What’s with all the adverbs!

All the characters sound the same.

Why give two characters such similar names, I have trouble easily keeping them apart.

OH MY! 20 characters and I’m not even through chapter 1, how will I keep them all apart?

Maybe I’ll just put this book down…

Questions You Do Want From Readers

Developmental book editors, too, have a running dialogue in their heads. It is primed towards the question ‘could this be made better?’ Editors start with the default stance of ‘this is a great book, I’m reading for entertainment.’ But if this assumption proves false, the questions start. The questions are designed to find the best path towards inspiring an author to take the story a step farther; subsequently, readers are not wondering where the cat is or eating nachos but asking:

How did the author ever think this up?

How will the hero escape this bind?

Is the heroine being framed?

Are these two going to fall in love and live happily ever after?

Does this author have other books I can read next?

Will there be a sequel to this?

When will the movie come out?

Whom should I recommend this book to first?

When you write, do you explicitly think about the questions and thoughts you want to inspire in a reader as they move through your book? If so, how does this help you write more evocatively? Getting a steady stream of thoughts and questions going in a mind of readers is essential to providing an immersive experience. Interaction is engagement is participation is entertainment.

Or you want pure calm, like a meditation where they are utterly immersed in the rare point of mental silence, just listening.

What you don’t want, is readers thinking about the cat or the nachos.

When you write, do you explicitly think about the questions and thoughts you want to inspire in a reader as they move through your book? Click To Tweet

Dawn Field

Spot on humor: A genius example all writers can learn from two drops of ink dawn field

BIO:

Dawn Field is a scientist now writing her second book for Oxford University Press. She has published over 50 articles on writing because she is fascinated by what makes great writing, the writing process, learning how writers create, and how fiction impacts society. She loves reading book drafts at any stage of completion, brainstorming writing projects, and hearing about the diversity of writing experiences. Connect with her to collaborate, or converse, at UnityinWriting.com.

Published posts on Two Drops of Ink:

1) Spot on humor: A genius example all writers can learn from

2) 50 Ways to Ensure no Editor Ever Reads Your Book

3) Herding Your Cats in Writing



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8 comments

  1. Thank you Dawn – after your post, I will be more mindful of the questions I want my readers asking.
    And I love that you included a sampling of questions we dont’ want our readers asking!

  2. Many questions I have asked about books that I have read. Trouble is when you ask the question it is an indication the writer has done a bad job. I had an argument a few months ago with a person who loved a book I hate. It is a case of not being able to please everyone.

  3. Dawn, I love the questions you don’t want your reader to ask. I have asked some of those questions before when reading a book. I will have to be more thoughtful when I am writing of what the good questions are!

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