How Do You Create an Experience for the Reader?

My writing group — No Whine, Just Champagne — will be hosting a live discussion (#39) tonight at 9:00pm ET, as we do every Thursday. To participate, you need to be a member of Gather (free) but anyone can follow the discussion. Since Gather does not have an IM set up, you have to keep refreshing the page, but that’s a small enough price to pay for such wisdom. (I’m not being completely facetious; many good points are made during the discussion.)

Tonight’s topic,  “How do you create an experience for the reader?” poses a good question because when it comes to fiction it is the only question. Without an experience, the reader has no reason to read. In the end, that is why we read — to experience what we don’t experience in our everyday lives. Even in stories that seem to be a rehash of everyday life, we can experience something new, such as a different perspective.

There is only one way to create an experience for the reader: through the use of words. Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs give a feeling of immediacy, of something happening, of peril even. Longer sentences and paragraphs give a feeling of thoughtfulness, respite. You can create an experience by focusing on the experience — description, dialogue, action. Or you can create an experience indirectly by focusing on something other than the experience — by focusing on a lone daisy petal to evoke a feeling of love lost.

After tonight’s discussion, I’m sure I’ll come away with a better understanding of how to create an experience for the reader. And so can you.

4 Responses to “How Do You Create an Experience for the Reader?”

  1. lynn doiron Says:

    Hello! Just thought I’d let you know that I posted a note regarding NWJC and tonight’s topic on my blog,, the lynn doiron writes blog — Thanks, Pat, for keeping me in your blogroll. Good discussion, I thought, tonight.

  2. Pat Bertram Says:

    Thanks for coming to the discussion, Lynn. They haven’t been the same without you!

  3. K.S. Clay Says:

    Sorry to miss the discussion, Pat. The time difference takes a little getting used to. Anyway, just wanted to say that I think the most important thing for me when it comes to creating an experience with my fiction is when it comes to description trying to appeal to all of the senses. I notice that there are some scenes that when first written are more bare bones. The action is there. The dialogue is there. But something about the scene just reads flat. I usually find that the culprit is in the description. By not including appeals to more of the senses, by not finding the perfect way to describe what is happening, the story can’t leap off the page and grab the reader. When I edit to add those things in the scenes tend to be much stronger.

  4. Pat Bertram Says:

    I’m sorry you couldn’t make it to the discussion, K.S.; perhaps another time. You make a good point. Without engaging all the senses, scenes do come across as flat. I have to make a point of adding sensory images to my work; for some reason they don’t come naturally.

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