The second part of The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke opens with the Greatest Commandment in Fiction: You must engage your reader from beginning to end. The rest of this book is dedicated to helping writers ensure that they are creating that connection between reader and novel. In the process he enlisted the research of Doctor Paul J. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, to study the science surrounding reader engagement. Dr. Zak makes some very interesting points about the way stories affect the human brain and why readers feel more connected to some stories than others.
Hacking Your Reader’s Brain
One of the most effective ways to build reader engagement is to connect your reader to your protagonist. Scientists have a name for this when it is done correctly they call this transportation. If you can create a character so believeable for your reader then they begin to transport themselves into the mind and body of that character. They are drawn into the story as they begin to subconsciously take on the persona of the character. Transportation can be observed when a reader’s heart rate increases as the character faces peril within the story. Readers are drawn to emotional content and dramatic structure.
So find a way early on in your novel to introduce a high stakes conflict full of emotion and drama. Starting a book with introductions may end up boring your reader and when a reader is bored they aren’t engaged in the world of your novel.
My Current Project…
I’ve written and re-written my first chapter half a dozen times. Each time I’ve gotten closer to the engaging opening that any novel deserves. My first copy used the first chapter to introduce backstory and setting, but the more I’ve read and researched the more I’ve realized that we need to see our character struggle right from the beginning.
Speaking of my novel–I still have a couple of Beta Reader spots open. I’m looking for a couple of people to read through the story before Sunday September 11 making corrections and responding to different parts of the story. If you are interested in joining my team please let me know! Thank you for all who have already chosen to support me in this way. Writing a novel is hard and I could never have done it without the help of my writing community!
The Ameri Brit Mom