So tonight I was at a teacher training where we were talking about how to engage our students. That when we just tell them things, they don't retain it. When we have them engaged, thinking, and doing things, then they remember it.
As I sat there, I thought of how that can be true with writing as well. When we have a story that is just being told to us, skimming the surface of character's emotions, not engaging us with the conflict, it becomes not memorable and easy to put down. But the books that move us, that we remember and that change us, are the ones that bring us in, that make us experience the character's story in a way we'd never thought of before.
But how do we do that as writers? There are the basics, like don't use words like "he felt" or "she wondered" which are key indicators that you are telling the story. Show how they felt. Let me get inside those emotions with the character. Get inside the character's head, dig deep to make their emotions believable and standout in the reader's mind because they can relate to it.
But we also have to draw the reader in with our conflict. Make the readers think about how they would react if that was happening to them. For example, in my novel Ring Around the Rosie, I have a man in a hostage situation with every person he loves (including his ex-wife) and he's forced to bargain for their lives as well as his own. As a reader, it's easy to put yourself in that position and think, how would I handle that? How would I handle a hostage situation (external conflict) and the emotions of seeing my ex-wife in danger (internal conflict)? Make both the internal and the external conflict deep and believable for the reader to keep them turning pages.
As writers, it's important to make sure we are always engaging our readers. Let them experience our story along with our characters and make our writing memorable. Tell me and I forget, engage me and I remember.
Do you have a book that was memorable to you?