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Keeping the Reader in Mind

by Ruth A. Douthitt

I teach writing to middle grade students here in Phoenix, and am amazed at their creativity when it comes to writing stories.

As a writing teacher, I use a plotting diagram as well as an outline. I also remind my students to keep me, the reader, in mind as they write. Now I have 70 stories to read and grade by mid-May. What was I thinking?

Being a writer is fun and I can’t contain my enthusiasm for it inside my classroom. This type of assignment might result in a lot of work for me, but, in the end, the workload is worth it. I get to see inside my students’ heads and assess how they develop obstacles for their protagonist to overcome as well as how they will resolve the problem in the story. They reveal to me a little bit about themselves in their work.

Think back to your own work. Do you keep your readers in mind when you write? Do you outline or plot out your story or are you a “seat-of-the-pants” person? For me, the plot diagram is essential. I am a visual person and I must “see” the story before it is written. Plotting it out allows for me to place obstacles in the rising action of the story. I can step back and see if I am attacking my protagonist with enough problems to cause my readers to cheer them on.

Using a plotting diagram helps me see that inciting incident that happens at the end of Act I. You know the one: The incident that will forever change my protagonist’s life. And, finally, plotting out the story helps me evaluate the resolution. Will my readers be satisfied with the ending? Or disappointed?

When a person reads your work, can they see inside your head? Can they get a picture of who you are? Or do you like to be far removed from your stories? Either way, it’s fun for the reader.

In another assignment, I asked my students to write a letter to their favorite author. As a result, I received some fan mail! It’s been fun reading their questions for me and the other authors. I can see how our stories left our readers wanting to know more about us.

That’s why it is imperative we keep the reader in mind when we write. I am in the middle of my Dragon Forest trilogy and will be starting book 3 this summer. I can’t help but keep the reader in mind when I write because I have to answer so many questions that were raised in the previous books. This final book has to bring everything to completion. That’s the challenge. That’s the fun part of writing!

As I instructed my students to keep me, the reader, in mind, I also instruct myself to do the same.

By writing for them, we make it worth the reader’s time to pick up our books and join our adventure.

Ruth DouthittAuthor, Ruth A. Douthitt, lives in Phoenix, AZ. In 2004, she completed The Dragon Forest which was picked up by OakTara Publishing in 2008 and released in April 2011. Ruth is currently revising book 2 for OakTara and will begin writing book 3 of the trilogy this summer.

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4 Responses to Keeping the Reader in Mind

  1. Telena Tanara Contreras says:

    Great post and reminder, Ruth!

  2. I don’t envy your need to grade those papers, but it must be pretty cool to have a window into your readers’ minds! :)

  3. Thanks Ladies! Yep, the grading part is tough, but worth it in the end. I have seen their writing improve throughout the year. It’s been a blessing because I have seen my OWN writing improve!

  4. Dana McNeely says:

    Great post, Ruth. How exciting to inspire young writers!