Recognition

January 16, 2017

 

I’ve explained elsewhere that deep attraction comes when you give a reader the feeling of being drawn into an emptiness or gap or loss or void desired by a character he or she can recognise. From that definition, we get three elements of deep attraction- recognition, mystery, and emptiness. 

 

If you can hit all three of these in a plot, you will find that a really strong and deep attraction comes naturally. You'll find that, so long as you stay confidently focused on losses, unknowns and mysteries and your characters remain recognisable, the readers’ desire for your story will grow. Readers will thrill when something good happens, respond when you want them to, be passionate about your chapters or scenes and be excited when you move your plot further along. And when you lack any of these elements, you'll see things start to fizzle. 

 

Recognition is the first step in creating deep attraction, although it's often overlooked. It's also the part that makes the biggest difference in a plot. When you first communicate to readers, you need to ensure that that your language and opening scenes don't make them feel alienated from the text. Recognition is crucial. If you look at as many stories as I do, you'll see plenty of opening scenes which look unrecognisable. These are the sentences which attempt to invade readers’ personal spaces, as if the writer is trying to force readers to engage with the plot. Most importantly, their language and style doesn't relate to anything we know, and we instinctively don't trust them as a result. 

 

‘Ah,’ you might be thinking, ‘but there are plenty of stories which begin in a shocking way, startling you or throwing you off-balance! How does that relate to Recognition?’

 

Good question - but a close examination of many of these kinds of stories (and there are many) reveals that the attempts to shock or disturb rest squarely upon readers’ prior expectations of recognisability. In other words, some stories - about a quarter of stories that are normally encountered in an ordinary library - are built upon taking something recognisable and immediately distorting or twisting it in some way to create an effect. That’s fine, and there’s plenty more to be said about that, but not right now. Right now, we're talking about the bulk of stories, and more than 75% of stories don’t do this: they begin with something firmly and clearly recognisable to a target audience, and stick with it.

 

When you understand the importance of Recognition, and how it relates to your plot’s integrity, you will never view stories in the same way again. 

 

Reflect on the last three movies you’ve seen or books you’ve read. How did they open? What was intentionally made recognisable to you as quickly as possible?

 

In today’s culture, writers aren't encouraged to be straightforward with plots. They aren't taught to be confident in presenting recognisable scenes. In fact, they're often taught to feel guilty for being straightforward, and to feel ashamed of their apparent ‘unoriginality’. But if you stick to it, you’ll find something interesting happens. Readers start to respect you as a writer on the first page. Then they start to like your story. Not because you please them, but because they have recognised something or someone. 

 

 

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