Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor

Forming a Bond with Your Readers

By G. B. Banks
2004, G. B. Banks

I first began writing in 1997, seemingly an eon ago now.  It took me many years to realize that I had not only some talent, but a sincere need to share my insights on life as a man who happens to be disabled. I've spent a lot of time honing the skills required to be a successful communicator, as well as attempting to understand the philosophies and mindsets that some of my favorite authors (like J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert A. Heinlein) drew from to achieve their success.

What was their secret? I've wondered. How did they inspire such fiercely loyal followers? What is the hidden power within their prose that still captivates us today?

The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling have garnered much attention in recent years, and deservedly so. The same questions I've posed above about past masters and innovators of speculative literature apply to this contemporary series as well. How did this author, whose tale is really just the classic one of a downtrodden boy who goes on a journey of self-discovery to uncover his true inner greatness, get kids and adults alike to run to the stores in droves to buy each book in the series? I've read the first five Harry Potter books looking for answers. From what I've read so far, and from various discussions I've read and participated in on the Net about the books and their phenomenal success, I've come to this conclusion: that above all else, Ms. Rowling deeply respects the bond with her readers.

When you get right down to it, isn't that what writing is all about? These writers, whose works we return to time and time again, speak to us on a personal level, touching upon the very same joys and sorrows, highs and lows, successes and failures, that each of us experiences at various points in our lives. These writers create a sense of intimacy with their readers, and through their intelligent prose and straightforward plots speak directly to us, saying: "Not only do I respect and understand you, but I've been there, too."

A writer must form this sacred bond with his readers and use this bond to build a truly believable fictional universe that will draw readers in, place them in the midst of this world, and then take them for a literary ride.

There are many ways to achieve this, but no surefire or concrete methodologies. Weaving the fictional dream does require a good understanding of language, vocabulary, and grammar, so the writer can express himself in a clear and concise manner. It also requires hard work and perseverance. The old axiom that the best way to learn to write is to write, write, and then write some more, is true in this sense. Expressing oneself effectively needs to become second nature so that one gives full attention to the stories themselves and can listen as the characters come alive inside one's head and speak, telling their tales. Despite what NBA superstar Allan Iverson may think, practice is important.

Keep in mind that it's rare for someone to produce a bestseller overnight. It takes a burning passion to write on your part, because no matter how talented you are, your work will often be rejected for reasons ranging from being completely unsuitable for a particular market to simply being too much like another work your targeted market has just published. And on top of all this, your financial successes will be few and far between, especially in the beginning. You must provide your own motivation to continue working through the lows, seeking the highs from your own growth and self-fulfillment. Let your desire to write be your driving force. Without this unassuming perspective on the business side of things, you won't be able to give your Muse the freedom she needs to whisper those sweet literary somethings in your ear.

Finally, you must have sensibility, respect, and an unbiased love and appreciation for your potential readers. Never talk down to them or underestimate them. Never expect your reader to be of a certain age, of a certain level of education, or from a certain background. Any published book or story could be read by the entire spectrum of humanity, and no matter where a person comes from, there are always truths about ourselves and our world that link us. Sometimes it can be scary to think that our readers might not get it.  And you know what? Not all of them will. However, as I've said, we all have the unifying experience of being human, and no matter where or when you were born and raised, the human experience itself is universal. Trust in yourself and your vision, and strive for excellence in your craft. Don't be afraid to allow part of yourself to bleed onto the page, because it's there, in the subtle yet significant part of ourselves, where our most basic passions may be found. These are not only the seeds, but also the soil, the water, and the sunlight that your tales need to grow. This is the well you must draw from in order to truly form that sacred bond with your readers.

And it's in that bond that you'll discover the true joys of being a writer.