You want to write fiction, but you're afraid that the readers will feel like they are simply reading a book instead of actually LIVING it. How can you make them feel like they're inside your story?
Do you know how it feels when you're reading a good novel and you can picture the scenes perfectly in your head? The ones that don't feel at all like reading, but rather like living inside the story you're reading. You can see what the characters are seeing, hear what they hear, feel what they feel — and it feels so real or "alive."
So how do you make characters so realistic, so three-dimensional, and so alive that they not only leap off the page but into your readers' hearts, minds, and souls?
Give your reader an easy-to-visualize setting
We've all been there. You finish a book and realize you don't remember much about the settings, characters, or plot. In fact, you are surprised by how little you have taken in about the story.
This is a common problem when reading fiction. Readers often feel frustrated that they cannot fully visualize the setting and characters. They find themselves thinking about the real world, not the story's fictional world.
The solution is to give your reader an easy-to-visualize setting that they can relate to. Make sure your setting feels real and believable, so your readers can get lost in the story instead of trying to visualize it. Some tips for creating such a setting include:
- Use familiar things as part of your setting
- Don't explain each detail
- Focus on three or four things that will be easy for your readers to remember
- Use at least one sense per paragraph
Understand your characters' desires and fears
Characters are people just like you and me. They have hopes and dreams. They have fears and regrets. And they have their own voices. An author's job is to make readers feel like they're living in a character's world, living his or her life, experiencing his or her emotions.
This is incredibly challenging for a writer to accomplish on their own, but it can be achieved with a bit of thought and effort on the part of the writer.
The most critical element of fiction is conflict – that is, something that stands in the way of something your character wants.
There are two types of conflict: internal and external.
A story with external conflict is one in which something or someone keeps your protagonist from achieving his or her goal.
For example, a man wants to get back together with his ex-girlfriend. In this case, the ex-girlfriend is the antagonist – the thing that stands in his way.
The story with internal conflict is one in which the protagonist himself or herself prevents their own goals from being reached.
For example, a young girl wants to be an astronaut when she grows up, but because she suffers from an irrational fear of heights, she changes her mind and decides to be a ballerina instead. In this case, her fear of heights is the antagonist – it stands between her and what she wants.
Understanding your characters' desires and fears will help you develop storylines that deepen and enrich your fiction by creating more believable and relatable characters.
Good stories are about people who rise to challenges and overcome obstacles. When you incorporate this principle into your writing, your stories will appeal more to readers because they'll feel like they are living the
If you want to write a story that readers will keep in their hearts for years, you have to make them feel like they're living it with your characters. They need to care about what happens to the characters. Your reader should feel like they are personally involved in the story, so they'll read on and won't be able to put your book down until they reach the end. A reader will form a bond with your characters when they understand the motivations of their actions. If you can get your reader to see the world through your character's eyes, then you've hooked them on your writing.
Showing a character's desires and fears helps create a strong emotional connection between them and the reader. To do this, you must know your characters intimately. You need to understand what motivates them, makes them angry, and why they suffer from fear or depression. If you don't know these things about your characters, how can you expect readers to?
You also need an understanding of their appearance, their voice and their way of thinking. An example would be if you were writing a character who was very timid and shy. You would have to understand how he thinks and how he sees the world around him in order for you to give him an accurate description.
Enrich your writing with sensory details
The best way to describe the setting is to give your reader a place they can picture in their minds. The concept of "Show, don't tell" comes up often in writing workshops and classes. We've all heard that before, but it's worth repeating here.
Instead of stating the fact that you're standing in a dark, cavernous room with a large, heavy wooden door at the far end, show the details by describing your surroundings more fully:
You step into a dark cavern, lit only by the flickering glow of torches mounted on the walls. The air is dank, and you smell mold and rotted wood. A large, heavy wooden door sits at the far end of the room.
The first passage tells us that we're in a dark room — but it doesn't evoke any real sense of place or give us a clear picture of what we're seeing.
In the second passage, we see that we're in a dank-smelling cave with flickering torches and feel like we are inside that space. This may seem like an obvious thing to do when writing fiction, but it's easy to fall into the trap of telling too much about the setting or not enough.
Using sensory details, you can help your reader to really feel like they are in the world of your story. This is helpful because it makes the pages come alive. It also helps the reader visualize what is happening in their head, which can help them understand where the character is physically in relation to everything else that is going on and what they can and cannot see.
Using sensory details will also help your reader feel connected with your main character(s). The more you can get them to experience what your characters are experiencing, the more connected they will feel. This will deepen their emotional investment in the story and make them want to keep reading until they find out what happens next. You can use sensory details by sprinkling them throughout your story.
You could make a list of all of the senses and then jot down some ideas for each sense as you think of them. You could even make an outline for each scene, listing out each detail you want in it. Then, as you write, you could refer back to this list often and try to make sure that all of those elements get included in each scene. This way, you don't end up forgetting something important.
We, humans, experience life mainly through our senses, so when we read about characters experiencing something, we should be able to experience it too — including what a place looks, smells, sounds, and feels like. The more details you include, the more a reader will get sucked into your story world.
Use dialogue to reveal traits in your characters
Dialogue can be used in many different ways, and one of the most common uses is to reveal your character's traits, personality, and general outlook on life. This is particularly common in comedic fiction, although it's also used in other types of stories.
Dialogue is an effective way to get your reader interested in your character, but it can also give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to pacing and tone.
"He said, she said," is one of the oldest writing cliches. It's also one of the most effective ways to bring fiction alive. Dialogue is the single best way to let readers get to know your characters and understand their personalities.
Unsurprisingly, it's also one of the best ways to make them care about what you're writing. The best dialogue does a lot more than just reveal information about your character. It reveals feelings, ideas, attitudes, and beliefs. It can be used to show how different people talk to each other — and how they don't talk to each other.
In some cases, it can even evoke the tone and pacing of real-life conversations, which will help create a sense of memory in readers' minds. Dialogue is so powerful that many authors use it as much as possible without filling in any details in their prose at all.
However, this is a risky technique; if you overdo it, all of your descriptions start to sound like dialogue, which quickly becomes hard for readers to follow. If you're going this route, be sure to keep things straightforward by using plenty of action or physical description as well. Otherwise, your story might start sounding like an episode of "The Big Bang Theory."
Telling a story through action and prose is excellent, but nothing beats writing dialogue to reveal your characters and make readers feel like they are living in your world. For example, imagine a character you want to show as unfriendly. First off, make sure it makes sense for them to be unfriendly. It's not enough that you want them to be this way—they need an actual reason for their attitude. If they don't have one, then you will need to create one for them:
"Hello," she said. "I'm Cindy."
"Hi," he said, shaking her hand limply. "I'm Bill."
"Do you mind if I sit here?" she asked, motioning to the chair across from him at the lunch table where he sat alone.
He shrugged and picked up his sandwich again. "Sure."
She sat down next to him.
"So what year are you?" he asked conversationally, taking a bite out of his own sandwich as she unwrapped hers."
"I'm a freshman," she said. "You?"
"Junior," he replied between bites.
To make your readers feel like they are living your fiction, you must know what it feels like to be inside a story. This is one of the main reasons why authors frequently read and often write in every genre. In order to write well, you must read as much as you can from every genre so that you have interesting examples readily available while you are writing.
It starts with exposition or background information. Just remember that you can't give everything away at once. If you try to do that, the readers won't be left time to react. You need to plan out and pace your writing carefully by giving a little bit of information here and there at a time when the readers will have time to digest it. Then they will start wondering what's going on while they live through the adventures with your characters. I hope these tips will help you in your quest to make your readers feel like they are inside your fiction!