You might think that a series of editing tips about the using the Senses to help you add crucial detail to help deepen a reader’s connection to your writing would stop after the fifth tip. The thing is, while we may have 5 clearly defined senses, since the inception of certain notions like shaman, spirit guide, medium and so many others the human race has wondered about the rigidity of those 5 basic categories.
Today we look at that ever illusive 6th Sense: Intuition/The 3rd Eye or for the sake of writing what I like to call MYSTERY.
One of the best and most difficult things for you to do as a writer is allow the reader to take over. Now, I’m not talking about those “choose your own adventure” books. No, what I’m getting at is that moment (or moments) when you’re reading and (actual genre mystery or no) you’ve put enough of those little hits together that the writer’s left unfinished (about character development or plot) when suddenly you get that “Aha!” moment; excitement rises and readers are so engaged in the world of the story that they know, they understand exactly how that character ticks, why they’ve acted just so and how that will affect the next decision(s) coming. Their intuition has led them to solving one or more innate mysteries you’ve woven into your book.
Let’s return to that original, core sentence about Jeremy and Sarah from a few weeks ago:
Jeremy leaned forward touching his nose to Sarah’s. She closed her eyes, not sure what to expect considering they could be discovered at any moment.
So how do you craft this strange 6th sense for your readers to tap into?
By not explaining everything.
Yup, it’s that simple and that hard 😉
The key is to acknowledge something, usually about a character, just enough to make readers wonder at its importance and then leave it alone, ignore it and let your reader file it away in the memory banks. Then, when it’s of importance to the plot or the development of that character you tease out another tid-bit of information, reminding the reader that this is important but we’ve yet to discover why.
This bit of mystery could revolve around an internal trait (why he’s quick to assume everyone is only concerned for themselves and therefore has hardened himself), an object (that ring on her pinky finger with the broken gemstone), or an external trait (that scar he never talks about but has a tendency to rub when he feels trouble brewing).
Now, let’s take that core excerpt above and infuse it with a hint of MYSTERY:
Jeremy leaned forward touching his nose to Sarah’s. The hairline scar that ran from the upper bridge across and down his nose reminded him of the last time he was alone with a girl in the woods. Sarah closed her eyes, not sure what to expect considering they could be discovered at any moment.
Doesn’t that little bit of info about Jeremy just make you squeal with delight and want to know how he got the scar and what the history of it might mean for Sarah? for his future? But the hardest part as a writer will be keeping the truth from the reader (although your character might not know or possibly doesn’t remember the significance of the mystery themselves).
The point is, just as you need to be mindful about when and where to place focus on the other 5 Senses in your work, you really need to limit how much and how often you bring your mystery into play. Have too much with too many characters and suddenly its melodramatic and readers are pushed out of the story rather than being pulled further into it.
You’re now armed to the teeth with the best of how to show and not tell your story, layering in the right kind of detail in just the right moment to create the biggest impact and make that everlasting impression on your reader 😀
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