Writing to desensitised readers: when nothing can shock us.

Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages, just Rock of Ages. . .  Is there anything that will shock us these days? And it’s not just the material available in books, it’s the reality we’re faced with as a world. Atrocities and destruction have always been present. But today, with media, we get a bird’s eye view. Are we becoming desensitized?

And, what does this mean to writers?

1) Your unique concept may be as unique as a teenager cuddling a One Direction pillow after a Facebook frenzy.

You’ve heard it all before: it’s been done before, and then again as a space opera where the MC is a 105 year old goat herder. And I know, your goat herder has been raised on the blood of sacrificial virgins, and their goat herder hasn’t. I’m not suggesting you change your concept or try to create a new one; I still believe in write what you want to write. But we need to accept that this ship has been sailing for a while. And the more writers there are, the more likely it is we are all going to drown in an abundance of overflowing ideas as we hug each other for safety and support rather than grab the damn life raft.

Which brings me to:

2) Selling yourself – with clothes on/off depending on whether you like to write in the nude.

The writing community is so supportive, but we have to accept the reality that we have to work hard to differentiate ourselves. Maybe it’s important to clarify that we can do this with each other rather than in spite of each other. Whether it’s a twitter contest, a standout query or a title that hits the spot. You might have to sell your book as ‘Honey I Blew Up The Kid’ meets ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer.’ And although you’ve almost run out of words for a tweet, you’re creating a unique idea that might have people thinking, “How much money would you have to pay Buffy to kiss Rick Moranis?”

3) Characters you love vs characters you could take or leave, or leave for dead.

I’ve heard that for a death to make impact, you have to invest in that character as a reader. But how about investing in the character that’s left standing? The MC’s mother dies after years of toiling and trouble. Make that double! And to feel empathy for that MC, you want to be thinking, “I want to be here to see how he/she get through this,” not, ” Why the hell wasn’t it them!”

4) Building up suspense: charge for the milk and they may want the whole cow, too.

This one has been the latest eye-opening addition to my revelations repertoire. Being a lover of urban fantasy, I’m always conscious of getting to the action. Get to those reveals, get people interested in your concept. But how about the get-people-hooked-by-suggesting-something-and-and-hinting-at-this-and-that-and-revealing-at-the-end strategy. It looks long and cumbersome, but trust me that counts as one word when your pitching, but it might be that we need to work harder on suspense and less on the action. Look at ‘Flowers in the Attic.’ How long did we get dragged through the mothers despicable behaviour, wondering whether she could possibly be that evil. We were all on that journey, knew there was something going on. But we all keep watching, waiting for the reveal.

So, we may have to work harder, but isn’t that generally what makes us more proud of what we do? And doesn’t that also translate in our work?

 

 

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