Thursday, 23 January 2014

So how do you trigger a reaction in your reader?

A lot of my current teaching of writers is based around the idea of triggers , triggering a reaction in your reader so that they feel part of the story.

For example, if you make your reader feel cold using the right imagery, you’ve involved them in the story. Same with fear, anger, heat, the list goes on.

To come up with the triggers, you need to use your reader’s associations. Every reader is different but you could play on:

* Their memories - every reader has had a childhood, why not trigger some of those memories? Or trigger their memories of a tough time? We get a lot of competition entries about people fighting illness. Tough reads but effective in terms of engaging the reader.

* Their connections to places and people. Hills, city streets, father figures, use them to trigger reactions.

* Their prejudices and preconceptions - OK, this can mean writing some tough material, depicting characters with whom you have no affinity but if you want your reader to react then getting them angry about a character is a good way; it also makes them love your hero/heroine more.
How do you trigger a reaction in your reader? You can join the debate on our Facebook page at

* Still time to enter this month’s Global Short Story Competition (just eight entries in so far, good time to have a go at the £100 first prize) at

John Dean

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