• Julie Gray

What Narratives Reveal About the Mind

That is the title of a podcast on NPR's Hidden Brain. It's an interesting listen, particularly for writers, because storytelling is a kind of magic. Writers use words to create worlds and within those worlds we have the capacity to evoke emotions, provoke thought and instill empathy. We can teach, we can show, we can weigh in with our own feelings. But we must, above all, entertain. I really believe this is true. Otherwise - why should a reader pick up your book and spend the most precious resource they have on it - their time? Remember, as you write, what your own process is like as you choose a book to read. You read the title, you look at the cover, you read the subtitle, you might flip through the pages and look at the table of contents. Suddenly - nope - you turn to a different book and you do the same. Nope. Next book. What are you in the mood to read? What are your interests? Does this book attract you, does it seem to offer you something of interest? Does the book look entertaining?

Writers have to put themselves in the shoes of readers. It's not hard to do, since most writers are often also bookworms. Yet oddly, writers can forget that their number one mission is to provide a world for a reader that will sweep them away into a place where time is suspended, a world in which you say - I'll be right there! - because you have to finish the page or the chapter. Remember that delicious feeling of not being able to put a book down? That is the experience you should aim to create in your book.

Entertainment. There's nothing low-brow about it. My book, Just Effing Entertain Me is aimed primarily at screenwriters yet many prose writers have told me that they found invaluable lessons for their writing too. The reason for that is that the whole premise of the book is, well, built right into the title, and there are important methods for writers to use to maximize conflict and surprises in your story with its pages.

Storytelling is an art form and reading is a great pleasure. Always be learning.