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Tom Evans : Reader-Centric Writing

Reader-Centric Writing

Extracted from Blocks: The Enlightened Way To Clear Writer's Block and Find Your Creative Flow by Tom Evans.

"A reader is not supposed to be aware that someone's written the story. He's supposed to be completely immersed, submerged in the environment." — Jack Vance

I am sure you have read articles or books where you got the impression that the writer is intent on showing you how clever they are. Every sentence is perhaps littered with a word that makes you reach for the dictionary.

On the other hand, we have all read a book that we couldn't put down? We just had to read the next chapter even though we should really have gone to sleep with a busy day ahead.

In the same way that rampant emotions can interrupt our creative flow at the level of the unconscious mind, the ego can wreak creative havoc at a conscious mind level if it engages while you are writing.

Not only will the reader spot it straight away but you will be writing from the conscious mind and will find it hard to engage with your own emotions, or those of your reader.

Consider this sentence:

"I stood on the burning deck. The flames were licking at my feet now and I could smell my nasal hairs burning. I was between a big rock and a really hard place. If I jumped into the water, the sharks would have me in minutes. Hang on, is that a helicopter I can hear?"

Imagine that this was the opening sentence to a chapter you were writing. Perhaps it's a story about the hijacking of a ship or a spy novel. Note that it's written in the first person from the perspective of the person trapped in the fire.

Close your eyes and imagine how horrific this would be. Go inside and feel which of your vestigial minds is most active. Your heart will be pounding and your brain will be crying out subliminally to your gut for help and guidance.

Now put yourself in the position of the helicopter pilot. Your training means you have to be calm and collected at these times. You know you have loads of fuel on board as well as an excellent winch operator and medic. You are confident that you will easily be able to rescue the person on deck and have them in hospital back on land within 20 minutes. What is going on your mind? You will be no doubt focused on the job in hand.

Next imagine you are a shark. You have already smelt a molecule of blood that has dropped into the sea. You have no idea about the turmoil going on above the water, not least what fire is, yet your primeval instincts sense a meal could be coming your way. One of your brains has told your stomach to start secreting digestive juices. If you were a land animal, the slobber might be visible from your mouth.

So with one simple premise in a single sentence, that of someone in some trouble, you can completely change the point and direction of the story.

This book is not about creative writing per se but this is a great example of how to easily get around a block in your writing. Simply look at what you are writing about from another point of view.

The example above is fictional so it allows for a large amount of creative freedom but the same applies to non-fiction books. For example, I could have written my book Blocks in the first person singular giving you an account of how I go about writing and getting over blocks. Now I am a fairly modest chap but even I would have struggled to keep my ego at bay if had done so.

I could have equally written it in the third person by writing, "the author does this …" or "one encounters that …" which could have been dry or seen as a bit of a text book treatment.

Instead, I have written it primarily in the second person with occasional forays into the first person such as this.

I have been careful to use language that is easy to understand and any complex terms or new words are explained. The last thing I want to do when writing a book on writer's block is to put any barriers in the way.

You will also note each chapter is relatively short as are the sentences and paragraphs.

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