Letting Your Readers Do Some Work
I’m having so much fun this month playing tag team with Rowan teaching you ways to use your writing to connect with your readers so that your essays allow them to say “me too” after reading. You know, rather than having you just say “me, me, me.”
Last week, I highlighted the power of the single scene story to draw your reader in, then Rowan chimed in by adding that focusing on a single object can also ground your story. But what if you want to write about something that spans years? For essays that unfold over time, you can still stay dedicated to story by finding a leitmotif that allows disparate scenes to hang together, without requiring you as the author to step out of the story to comment on them. And since we’re bringing back old yeah write winners to illustrate our points, longtime yeah writer Bill Dameron’s jury prize winning post “Spinning Bottles” from week #167 does an amazing job of bringing together three scenes spanning a lifetime by using the theme of “first kisses.” This simple act and the emotions it inspires allow the author to stay within the story, linking separate scenes from decades apart through the universality of new love, while telling an underlying personal story about identity and authenticity.
Telling a story that takes place over years in under 1000 words is a challenge and, as writers, it’s easy to cheat and leave scene behind in lieu of commentary that allows us to skip ahead and make the linkages for our readers. Using a leitmotif or thematic action to hold your scenes together allows you to stay true to the plot and let your readers do the linking for themselves.
And that’s what this month’s lessons are all about: letting your readers do some of the heavy lifting. Because if you’re doing all the work, there’s really nothing left in it for them. It’s an empty read. Staying in the story and letting your readers work through your themes in their own minds creates a dialogue, and that is the essence of good art: when your words spur other people to think, instead of doing the thinking for them. And the more we can use our art to get people thinking through large and small questions on their own, the more we can connect human to human, and the better chance we have of coming to understand one another. In fact, it just might be the best chance we have.
Yeah write super challenge
The yeah write super challenge #3 is still open for registration! Make sure you fill our your registration form and send in payment before the deadline to be fully admitted to the contest. Don’t forget to sign up for our email blast as well so you don’t miss out on any announcements.
Who’s on fourth
This month we invite you to learn more about Hema over at Mixed Bag! The interview will publish Monday at 12pm ET, but in the meantime, head over to her page and catch up on all of her awesomeness.
This month’s nonfiction know-how is learning the difference between navelgazing and reaching outward. That is, as storytellers we’re at our finest when it’s not about us, it’s about the reader. So when you write an introspective post, think about saying instead of “am I the only one who feels like this,” you should be saying “I feel like this too, you are not alone.” Learn more from Rowan here.
Want more info?
Is this your first time here? Check out Sunday’s post which kicked off the week here at yeah write. Our email subscribers can also join us in the yeah write coffeehouse at its home on Facebook. If you’ve never taken the time to read them, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with our submission guidelines. The rules are a little different for each of our challenges and we’d hate to have to send back great writing on a technicality.
Did you happen to end up here because you suddenly saw yeah write in your stats? Sometimes members of our community spot excellent writing and they send those posts on over to us. We hope you don’t mind. Take a look around and get to know our community. We’re sure you’ll be happy here.
How to submit and fully participate in the challenge
Basic yeah write guidelines: 1000 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; nonfiction personal essay, creative opinion piece or mostly true story based on actual events.
1. In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the nonfiction badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry
2. Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid
3. Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message
4. Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge
5. Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog
Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.
Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…