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Monday, February 18, 2019

Look Forward, Not Backward, to Pull the Reader In



Hi everyone! For this week's writing tip, I'm over at Writers Helping Writers as one of their residency writing coaches. This is a subject I've been thinking about a lot lately, leaning forward in your story.

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A lot of writers have the tendency to look “backward” when writing. They might use a lot of flashbacks, they might have a character think “back” on things, or they may simply refer to events that happened in the past. Sometimes they may even backtrack and reiterate what has already played out on the page, or repeat information the audience already knows.

As writers, we love looking backward. Part of this is because from our perspective, when we understand a character’s past, we understand the character better, or alternatively, when we understand what events led to the current point of the story, we better understand the story. From a writer’s perspective, we may even feel more powerful emotions by linking back to the past regularly.

Looking “backward” in a story isn’t necessarily wrong. It has an important role in storytelling. Maybe we do need that flashback, for example. Looking back once in a while also adds authenticity–after all, we all look back from time to time in our personal lives, and a story should be bigger than what’s on the page. Your characters should have an existence, a history, before the first chapter.

However, unlike the writer, most of the time, for the reader, looking backward is not nearly as interesting or as effective as looking forward.

Often as writers, we think, if the audience can just see the significance of the past, they’ll be drawn into the story. In reality, looking forward does this innately and more powerfully.

. . . in the rest of the article, I talk about how to best get the audience to look forward, with two types of draws that will pull them in and keep them turning the pages.

Show Writers Helping Writers some love and visit their site.

Next week I'll be back here talking about how to break the "One Impossibility" rule.

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