Writing Secrets: The silver thread between your character and you

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

Be aware of your connection to your character – that silver thread that attaches you to them – and you’ll write better.

I believe this and I’ve seen it again and again. Consider this paragraph, written in an assignment recently:

John leapt from the car, engine still running with a stream of traffic honking behind it, not bothering to shut the door, and ran towards his daughter.

There’s really nothing wrong with that, although he could perhaps have broken the sentence into two. It tells us what he did and what happened. But if he were that bit more aware of his attachment to John…

John leapt from the car, engine still running. A stream of traffic had backed up behind him. Bugger. Couldn’t be helped. Leaving the car door swinging, he broke into a run. Julia’s bright head bobbed through the mass of dark scarves just ahead of him. She was tantalisingly close. She couldn’t disappear again, please God, she couldn’t.

It’s subtle, but I prefer the second because, instead of explaining what he did, the writer made us part of John’s decision-making and allowed us inside his awareness. We were able to walk in his shoes, which made it more of an immersive experience for us.

We were shown, rather than told.

Read Richard’s latest blog ‘Monday Motivation: Make your protagonist worthy of your antagonist – and vice versa

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Showing 2 comments
  • Bridgina Molloy

    I see what you mean, the first one seems rather distant, not in touch, but the second one seems more immediate, you feel as you say, you are right there with him.

  • Jo-Anne Richards

    Exactly, Bridgina. It’s a more immersive experience. It also makes for more active and powerful reading, since your reader is given the evidence and must draw her own conclusions, just as she does in real life. Xx

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