You know your stories are important. (If you’re not convinced, look at that Bible verse way up at the top, and go back and read Are your stories important?)
You have God-and-you stories that only you can tell, and your children and grandchildren need to know them. Perhaps friends, colleagues, and even strangers need to know them, too.
Yes, your stories are important. But will anyone read them?
Nowadays potential readers have many distractions: texting, Facebook, cell phones, movies, sports, TV, magazines, iPods, the internet, hobbies, and thousands of books besides yours.
All these, and more, compete against your memoir.
And to make matters worse, in Tuesday’s post we covered some startling, even discouraging, statistics: …..
- “The average time spent reading is on the decline…. On average, Americans read only 19 minutes per day, down from 10 years ago…. On weekends, Americans between the ages of 25 to 34 read for just eight minutes a day on average.”
- “Most people read only part of a nonfiction book. In fact, a study by Kobo found that religion books were the most abandoned of any genre. In North America, only a little over one-third of all religion books are read all the way to completion.”
Does that make you gulp? It does me.
Peter Jacobi wrote one brief sentence 25 years ago that I’ve always remembered:
“No story has a divine right to be read.”
“Unfortunately, as a writer . . . I cannot try what author Anthony Burgess did when he was ‘teaching Shakespeare at City College . . . at 8:00 a.m.’ He explains, ‘I decided to teach them something about how Shakespeare was educated. I began to write three lines of Seneca in Latin on the blackboard to show where Shakespeare learned about rhythm, and they started to walk out. Well, I wasn’t going to let them get away. I rushed to the door and locked it, saying, “You’re going to learn these . . . lines of Latin whether you like it or not.”’”
We can’t lock our “audience” in and force them to read our stories.
Because attention spans are short and schedules are packed nowadays, people will spend time on only what promises to be worth their effort.
That means our stories must be more intriguing than all those distractions and choices before them.
Think of your own experience: How many times have you started reading a book or magazine or newspaper or blog post, anticipating—maybe even craving—a good read, only to be disappointed with boring or confusing content?
Here’s the lesson you and I can learn from such an experience: Our memoirs must draw readers in and keep them turning the pages.
“Some writers assume
readers are eager to grasp every word they write.
The opposite is true . . . .
Because we find it interesting,
or we think our life is newsworthy,
it’s easy to assume everyone cares.
It’s better to assume no one cares
about what we write . . . .”
So we memoirists must write stories worth reading.
We must earn the right to be read—we must capture the reader’s interest so he’ll keep reading all the way to the end.
How do we write stories worth reading? We find answers to that question in books and articles and writers’ conferences and blog posts.
And from week to week, I post the best of those tips here at Spiritual Memoirs 101—and I post even more valuable info on Facebook. (If you’re not following us on Facebook, you’re missing a lot!)
The links below will connect you to two of the main ways we can hook readers and keep them reading. These merely scratch the surface, but here is a sampling:
The first link will take you to last week’s post: We examined a memoir that lacked emotional depth because the author failed to let readers into her emotions and thoughts and reactions. As a result, she remained a one-dimensional person.
You and I can avoid her mistake by describing how we feel during key scenes and letting readers inside. Read more about creating emotional depth in your memoir by clicking on Performing emotional surgery on ourselves.
The second link will help you recreate scenes through the five senses—sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. When we include sensory details, readers enter into our stories—they live them with us—and that keeps them reading.
You’ll find this post especially helpful: Details: A must for your memoir. Don’t miss it!