Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Leesburg First Friday: Orienting Your Reader

By Linda Budzinski

As authors, we introduce readers to often unfamiliar worlds, filled with unfamiliar people and places. Fortunately, we have a number of tools in our writing toolbox to guide our readers through the story—and to draw them further into it.

At the Writer’s Center–Leesburg May First Friday event, I had the pleasure of presenting a session on “Orienting Your Reader,” along with fellow young adult author Valerie Patterson, in which we discussed two very different navigational tools.


Linda Budzinski
Valerie Patterson

Val opened the session with a wonderful presentation on setting and the many roles it plays within a story. Setting does more than orient the reader to time and place, she said. As an example, she took participants through an exercise designed to show that the way a story’s setting is described can reveal a great deal about its main character and his or her emotional state. The same house would be described very differently by a young child, an adult returning home after a long absence, or an elderly woman recently widowed.

Next, I shared thoughts on how raising (and resolving) questions in your readers’ minds can help guide them through the story. It is important to provide just enough information at each stage of the tale to entice them to turn the page, without confusing them or unnecessarily holding out on important details. The best way to know if you have struck the right balance is to specifically ask your critique partners and beta readers to tell you what questions your story is raising in their minds. You want the questions to be ones of intrigue, not confusion. And you don’t want to raise questions you have no intention of later answering!

Coming up in June

At the June First Friday event, Erika Ettin will examine “How to Create Characters that Will Capture an Editor's Attention and Your Readers' Hearts.” Erica is the founder of A Little Nudge, an online dating consulting business focused on helping people put their best foot forward online. Her self-help book, Love at First Site, shows readers how to increase their odds for connections by marketing themselves well. Her advice includes pointers for writing a winning profile and crafting emails that catch someone’s attention. She’ll share how we as writers can use these skills to craft engaging characters and how to write pitches to capture an editor’s eye. To register for this event, click here

The Writer’s Center–Leesburg Committee offers events the first Friday of every month except for December, January, July, and August. Events are held at the Leesburg Town Hall, 25 W. Market St., Leesburg, VA 20176. 

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