Sunday, June 3, 2018

Hand in Hand - Loving your Audience and Your Writing

Know your audeince.

These are words of advice given to writers and performers, regardless of craft.  In a general sense these words are a good place to start. A writer of Middle Grade fiction will use a different toolbox for story structure and vocabulary than a Romance author. Yet, I've come to realize that it goes much deeper than that. The author has to know herself as much as her reader, and in telling a story a bond needs to be forged from start to finish -- between the author and the words she chooses, between the reader and the words he reads, and between the phrases, the sentences, the commas and the periods that carry the story from begining to end.

As in any relationship, creating bonds takes work. It takes time. It takes careful attention. While we all are capable of creating relationships, some of us are better at doing so than others. So aside from mastering the craft of word-smithing with hours-upon-hours of practice, what is it that helps an author create that masterpeice - that universal story that speaks to many different types of people of so many different experiences and backgrounds?

I believe that the key ingredient in masterful storytelling involves imaging a specific person that you are writing the story for when you sit down to write it. Imagine you are engaged in a conversation and are about to share a best-kept secret for the very first time. Imagine you are sharing that story in a way that it is the only time it will ever be shared.

Why does imaging we are telling a stroy to a cherished friend or family member work? Because when we are with that person, we are comfortable. We share a chemsitry, humor, and history, which doesn't get in the way of saying whatever it is that we want to say. We commicate along established lines of trust. And trust is universal, and I believe readers can feel it coming from the page.

This reflection comes from personal experience. Of the stories I've published, the one I had the most joy writing was Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Foest Again (2011 KART Kids Book List Award).  While writing this story, I imagined I was telling my young nieces a story about characters I had fallen in love with - beginning with a cake platter, then a bitty gray mouse, and a bright blue bird, a jolly round porcupine, and a flat-footed duck -who each join Little Red on a new journey to grandmother's house. And in doing so, I gave my characters and my young audience (my nieces) every bit of attention needed in every word used to entertain them.

I wasn't able to put the experience of writing Little Red into perspective until I was poking around the internet for inspiration and visted the blog for Chronicle Books. and then it all made sense and led to my own blog post today. In their post on The 10 Principles of Story Telling, Chronicle Books advises writers to tell your story as if you are telling it to a friend. Exceptional words of wisdom.

Reading and reflecting on this part of the creative process has brought about a new energy and sense of vistion as I begin tackling new writing projects this summer and reflect on inspirational writing in the books I'm taking time to read now. I love it when I connect with words on paper - words that a author has not hurried - words that relay an experience in the life of a character with spot-on attentiveness.

With that in mind, I will leave you with some of my favorite books where I believe attentiveness is carried throughout the story and left me in wonder at the masterfulness of storytelling.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

It was late one winter night, 
long past my bedtime,
when Pa and I went owling.
There was no wind.
The trees stood still
as giant statues.
...



The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

   She was born Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, and she did not open her eyes for three days. 
...







The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

   It was dark where she was crouched, but the little girl did as she'd been told. The lady had said to wait, it wasn't safe yet, they had to be as quiet as larder mice. It was a game, just like hide and seek.
   From behind the wooden barrels the little girl listened. made a picture in her mind the way her Papa had taught her. Men, near and far, sailors she supposed, shouted to one another. Rough, loud voices, full of the sea and its salt. 
...

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