Tuesday, February 26, 2013

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOUR READERS by Rita Karnopp


     I firmly believe our readers are well educated and fairly affluent in today’s society. Then we shouldn’t be surprised that reading is at an all-time high and educated people tend to like books.  Let’s take it a step further and make note their incomes enable them to buy books.
     It’s sad to think that when I started writing I was told not to write above a fifth-grade level.  Say what?  I still think aspiring authors sometimes simplify their writing because they’re afraid of distancing a huge mass of prospective readers they envision they should be writing for. This is tragic because you cannot do it. And you don’t need to—the average reader is smarter than you may think.
     The point being, don’t underestimate your readers.  You should write the book you want to write and a reader will choose your book if it’s the type of book they like to read.  Period.  If they are the demographic you’re searching out – forget it.  You have to be the demographic they are looking for.  Writing down can be particularly catastrophic, because agents and editors as well as your readers will not relate to the book.
     First, use the vocabulary that your character would use. If catastrophic is the right word, don’t change it to terrible. And if witty is the right word, don’t change it to facetious just to show off.
     Second, always fight the urge to over explain.  This is something that is so simple, yet so easy to get in a habit of doing, especially when describing action sequences and characters’ thoughts.
     Sam pulled on the wet rope and after several attempts slid back down to the ground. After several attempts, he stomped his feet exasperated and exhausted.  He swallowed his pride and glanced up the high cliff and shouted, “I could use some help here.”
     You don’t need to ‘tell’ what is going through Sam’s mind; the reader can guess just fine.
     Agents and editors, and don’t forget the reader, will recognize an educated voice, and they will respond and respect it. 

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