A Question of Trust
How to keep readers on board
I’ve read a couple of books lately which feature a number of different viewpoints and time scales. The stories seems to jump around all over the place, and at the beginning there doesn’t seem to be any connection between characters and narratives. I’m reasonably adept at following different threads, but maybe because I’m tired and only tend to read last thing at night, I sometimes struggle to keep up! And yet the authors of both novels are highly experienced and I trust them enough to keep going, confident that the narratives will eventually make sense.
It set me thinking what writers do to persuade readers to trust them. I came up with the following list:
- Have a ‘track record’ of writing well-reviewed, accomplished books over several years.
- Have a strong ‘voice’ (see blog entry of that name).
- Create believable, sympathetic characters in whom we invest emotionally.
- Ensure the various plot elements come together in a satisfying and credible way at the end.
- Write compelling, fascinating scenes.
- Write convincing dialogue.
- Leave enough ‘clues’ to enable readers to guess at how the threads will come together, whilst not giving too much away.
Maybe these disparate narratives are a current trend. They are certainly fascinating, even if they can be confusing to start with.
But if novelists are going to continue to write like this, perhaps I need to re-work my reading habits so I am more alert. I trust the writers, but I’m not sure I always trust myself!