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Get out of your reader’s way with these tips

Are you getting in your reader’s way? Getting in the way can take many forms. At the Vegas Valley Book Festival Saturday, young adult author Matt de la Peña presented a workshop about this very topic.

Here’s what he had to say:

Don’t bog down your story’s beginning. Be wary of loading it down with too many details, characters and too much backstory. Let the story unfold in a timely way.

Research is for writers not readers. As a writer you should know much more than you reveal in the story. Your “knowing” will give your story authenticity but you don’t want the reader to be aware of it. Instead, you want just enough for the reader to trust you and the narrator.

Consider Ernest Hemingway’s “iceberg theory,” said de la Peña, as an example of how readers can find meaning in a story without all the information the author knows.

Make choices about writing poetic moments. “Don’t be caught dribbling through your legs and around your back like Kobe Bryant,” de la Peña said. “That doesn’t advance the story.”

Craft the right pacing. Slow down during great conflict and reversals, plot points where a character gets the opposite of what he was counting on.

Matt de la Peña is the author of Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, The Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, and I Will Save You. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, and teaches creative writing at NYU. For more information, visit his website.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’d love to hear Matt de la Peña speak. The Nation’s Hope is one of my favourites, and I loved I Will Save You.

    November 9, 2012

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