Writing a coherent sentence is hard enough. But writing an entire book made up of coherent sentences that also make people feel something…well, that’s a little more difficult.
As a reader, I find it vital that a novel be compelling. If a book does not make you think, or feel, or believe something, it is generally not worth reading. Compelling books are those books that you can read, over and over again, without becoming bored with them, books that go beyond exciting action sequences and dramatic affairs of the heart. Compelling books are the books that make you feel alive. Books that make you cry. Books that make you frustrated. Books that make you laugh. Books that make you so angry, you can’t sleep. Books that make you hate the author for writing a book so good that it ruined your life.
That is the kind of book that I hope to write one day. Not because I want to be the cause of someone’s ruin, or because I want to make people hate me. But because I want my writing to touch people. Writing is nothing but a waste of time and energy if it doesn’t have any effect on anyone. But how do you write a compelling novel? How can you make your words matter to people? How can you make your characters important to the tens of thousands of strangers across the globe who will one day, hopefully, read your novel?
The simple answer is this: you can’t. You can’t make anyone feel anything. That’s entirely up to the reader. Everyone who reads a novel will come out of it with something different. No matter how “good” your book may be, it’s still going to be the object of someone’s contempt. It’s still going to bore a lot of people. And confuse a lot of people. And quite a lot of people will never make it past the first chapter.
But what can you do, to make your writing more compelling?
- You can write from your heart
People are always saying, “Write what you know”. I say, write what keeps you up at night. Write what is burning in your brain, screaming to be let out on paper. Write what catches your attention. Write what turns your life upside down. Write what stops you in your tracks and makes you wonder. Yes, write what you know. But that doesn’t mean you should write about only what you know. If it did, there would be no such thing as fiction. Writing what you know means taking your own experiences and translating them into a world that you’ve created. It means not writing from what you’ve seen, but what you’ve felt. It means writing from your heart. Writing about what touches you, what infuriates you, what gives you peace, what breaks your heart. Writing about what you hope for, what people around you hope for, it means writing about the garbage in your life, it means writing honestly and openly, and it’s not easy. But it’s compelling, and it’s real.
- You can make it relatable
This is very much the same as writing from your heart, but it also means making your writing accessible. Open to interpretation. It means writing people that we all know—the loving mother, the grumpy neighbour, the weird uncle with a fetish for yellow polka dots. It means writing about the important things, the things in life that everyone experiences. Loss, triumph, fear, love, insecurity, success, the list goes on and on. A little green Martian can be more relatable than the average Joe, if you make him so. First write from your own life, and then make it connect to the reader’s life.
- You can make it so small, that it’s huge
We, mankind collectively, become easily jaded. If you write about a problem so large that it is insurmountable, we will easily forget about it. A war, a plague, an injustice…it can be the whole plot of a book, but if you focus only on the entirety of the problem, readers may just stop caring. Not entirely, of course, but we are quick to dismiss those problems in the world that have no personal significance. For example, when we think of poverty in the world, we know that innocent children will die every day from hunger. Yet, we’ve sort of come to accept it, horrible as it may sound. We know that we cannot save all of the children. So we just accept it, and move on.
However, what would happen if you were told that a single child was starving, and needed your help? You would feed them, of course. Unless you’re some kind of heartless, self-absorbed monster with no human compassion. You see, it is a part of our nature that when we are faced with the small problems, the personal problems, the tiny details—those things that we can fix—that we are most moved. Focus on the little things, and use them reveal the hugeness of the problem. Focus on the minuscule, the heartbreaks, the goodbyes, the baby birds who have fallen from their nest. Focus on the grimy, tear-streaked face of a little girl who lost her doll in a fire. Don’t just write about the bad. Write about how the bad destroys the world of the innocent. There is nothing more compelling than that.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve gained something. Happy writing!
Love to all,