Establishing the dream
We writers want our readers to live in the dream world we create. We want them to forget about their mortgage payment for a while, to put aside the nagging problem of what to do about the relatives, and to ignore the mess in the living room. We want our readers right there, in the world we establish. So ……………..
- We show as much as we can. We write in scenes, with our protagonist smelling things in the scene, seeing things, hearing things and so forth. Some say 80 percent of our work should be showing.
- We avoid grammar mistakes. Not because they are rules, but because they can pull our readers out of the dream world of our story. Of course, our characters in dialogue can make all the mistakes they want, as long as the mistakes fit the character. A grammar mistake by the author is like walking across a room and tripping over a coffee table.
- We don’t bore our readers. Like Scheherazade who had to keep the sultan entertained or loose her life, we keep our readers turning pages. We don’t bore them with long descriptions. We filter in background instead of pouring it in at the beginning. The story comes first for us.
- We keep our readers on the pages of our book and not on the pages of the dictionary. If we use a word that is not familiar, our readers will know what it means from the context. I differ here with other writers, who encourage their readers to learn new words, but for me the story takes precedence.
These ideas are as true for non-fiction as they are for fiction. If we write an article about an interesting person, we want our readers to meet that person on the page.
Show, don’t tell. The story comes first. Good rules.