I attended a writers conference this past weekend.
No, I’m not saying that with a straight face. 😀 I was so excited when I think back on what I did while there, I image myself looking like the squirrel from Over the Hedge. Hyper and a bit distracted by all the writerly things.
Anyway, I learned so much I could probably write a blog post that would take an hour to read, but I don’t have that long of an attention span myself. 😛 So today I’ll mention the biggest thing that I’ve been chewing on since the weekend.
It’s called the Escape Factor.
I was sitting in one of the workshops geared toward those who write for middle grades and YA audiences. The speaker talked about many amazing things and only briefly mentioned this factor of fiction, but it stuck with me and made me reflect on the heart of fiction writing. (If you’ve read previous blog posts, you’ll see this is something I often do 🙂 )
Readers read to escape.
*nods* Okay, I knew this. But then I explored this little nugget of knowledge.
Let’s say our average reader is a typical human being of twelve years. Life isn’t great but it’s not terrible either. School is a challenge and he’s dealing with bullies. He sits alone at lunch and reads.
Or a teenager who closes her bedroom door to the family struggles and pulls out a book.
Life is hard. Young people have struggles and difficulties they face every day. *raiseshand*
When that reader picks up a book, there’s this longing to escape their real circumstances and watch someone else deal with their own problems for a while. Like taking a breather. This is great insight for writers and gives us wondrous opportunities for reaching readers! And it drives this question for thought.
What kind of escape should we provide for readers?
We have a couple different options as writers. Make our MC’s circumstances considerably better than the readers which provides them relief, like a haven they can escape to. (and no this doesn’t mean this kind of book doesn’t have conflict, but I won’t go into detail otherwise we will be here for an hour)
I think of a lot of Pixar adventures fall in this category. Yes, there was an entire sea between Nemo and his father. And we can relate to his fear. But he is a fish. So we feel safe entering his world. In fact some of us wish we were a Dory and could live in the sea all the time. At least we’d never have to wait at stoplights ever again and we could forget our bad days immediately after they happened.
The Terrible Place
Or make the MC’s circumstances entirely worse than the reader’s. Think about third world countries. When I think about how much clean water I use every day, that I have food available for any time I sense a tummy rumble, and a roof over my head, not to mention freedoms not granted to these other nations, I kick myself for complaining in the first place and suddenly my life situation doesn’t seem so bad after all.
Dystopian is the most obvious to fall under a worse world category, but so can most any other Speculative and Contemporary story. (It really depends on what your character is struggling with internally and externally) And it also depends on where your reader is at in life.
Nonetheless, God is really using fiction to pull readers from whatever life perspective we’re stuck in, change our perspective on life and throw us back into reality a changed person. (I’ve been in the reader boat too many times to count!)
Words have power.
Readers are willingly watching our MC’s make choices that the reader is having to make everyday. Talk about having the chance to share with young people good decision making skills (sometimes the point is driven home even more when the MC makes the wrong decision) and that there is hope. That wrong can be redeemed. That they are not alone.
You hold a powerful tool in your fingertips my writing friend. We have a captivated audience. An audience longing to escape to a place that when they come back, they know everything will be okay, because there is hope. With well written stories that allow readers to escape reality and process life through a character’s point of view, my prayer as a writer is that the readers point of view on whatever hardships they’re facing will be changed, for the better as well.
And let’s be honest. We wouldn’t be able to write about redemption and hope through hardships without having been changed by them ourselves.
What are some perspective changing books you’ve escaped too?