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  • Kyle V. Hiller

The question your book should ask your reader

I feel this way. Do you feel this way, too?

I can't remember where or who I heard this from, but someone said it when they talked about their writing. It stuck to me, and it pings in my ears every time I sit down and write. It's such an important question to ask, and I hope you're asking the same question about your own work.

There's plenty of blog posts out there that talk about what you need to do with your first chapter, and many of them bring up significant points that I think every writer should practice and employ in their work. The first chapter has a big responsibility in that it poses a question that the book will attempt to answer.

The question is largely what will make your writing unique. The answer is how your writing will stick with your readers after they've closed the book and put it back on the shelves.

I think I feel this way, do you feel this way, too? should be another question over-arcing the entirety of your work. It's a universal question that I think a lot of us are asking, and many of us haven't gotten the answer we're looking for.

The answer your readers are looking for may very well be in your writing.

When you pick up a book, or watch a movie, or listen to an album, the ones that really reach your heart are not necessarily only the ones that are the absolute best. Instead, your personal favorites are your personal favorites probably because the work spoke to you when you were feeling something. It could have been a bad time, there could have been depression, loss of a job or a loved one, or something deeply emotional that you couldn't quite figure out on your own.

It doesn't really matter how technically sound your work is. It's more about will this story connect emotionally with my readers?

Here are a few things to think about to see if your writing does indeed connect:

  • Is your main character conflicted about their emotions?

  • Does your main character have realistic imperfections?

  • Is the first chapter's question well-thought out and articulated with empathy and nuance?

  • Does the question come from an emotional place that you and your readers don't get to talk about much?

  • Are you diving deep enough into that emotional, vulnerable place?

Go back and think about your favorites. What were you feeling when that favorite had come into your life? Did it make you feel like someone out else there felt the same thing you did? The things you love most likely are asking that question of I feel this way, do you feel the same way, too?

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